This overview of our Legislative Priorities will connect you with pertinent resolutions, positions, policy letters, research and resources for each of our top priorities so that you can #TakeAction4Kids whether you are advocating at your county School Board Meetings, the General Assembly or on Capitol Hill. Please visit Take Action to learn more about bills we support and actions we are taking in the current Legislative Session and how you can join us to drive change on behalf of students in your community. If you have a new position you would like Virginia PTA to take, please consider writing a resolution.
Education received during the first five years of a child’s life is important to a child’s long-term educational success. Virginia currently ranks 33rd in the nation in investment in early childhood education. According to the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program, almost half of Virginia children enter kindergarten without the basic skills they need to succeed in school.
Career Technical Education (CTE) programs in Virginia public schools serve more than 640,000 students in one or more CTE courses in grades 6-12. CTE programs prepare students for high wage, high skill, high demand careers in existing and emerging industries while meeting the Commonwealth's need for well-trained and industry-certified technical workers. Virginia’s Profile of a Virginia Graduate and new school accreditation standards expanded the focus of CTE to ensure graduates have the knowledge, skills, attributes and experiences identified by employers and educators as critical for success in the workforce.
CAREER TECHNICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES
Agriculture is the largest private industry in Virginia and plays an essential role in our everyday lives, contributing food, fiber for clothing, fuel and stewardship of the land. Farming today uses advanced data collection, sensors, automated machines, biomimicry, drones and other sophisticated technologies, yet is undervalued. Agriculture education should be integrated directly in the curriculum (instead of through the nutrition department) to support rural workforce education and development, increase locally grown foods in school cafeterias and provide hands-on learning for all students.
AGRICULTURE EDUCATION RESOURCES
Studying world languages results in higher scores in verbal and math standardized tests, strengthens critical thinking skills, creativity, problem solving capabilities and memory function. Additionally, the ability to speak, read and write in a world language increases cultural awareness and is essential to attract business, engage in world trade, participate in scientific research, foster diplomacy and respond to global humanitarian emergencies.
Cuts made by the General Assembly during the 2009 economic downturn instituted a ‘cap’ or formula on the amount of state funding provided for vital school support staff. Virginia disproportionately relies on local governments to fund public schools compared to other states, ranking 26th in the nation for per pupil funding when considering the local share of K-12 funding and falling to 42nd in the nation when looking at only the state contribution. Virginia PTA urges the General Assembly to modernize the Standards of Quality to reflect actual school division staffing practices recommended by the Board of Education and pay the state’s share of critical staff positions.
STANDARDS OF QUALITY RESOURCES
Access to high speed internet touches almost every aspect of modern life yet there are an estimated 660,000 Virginians who don’t have access to broadband. Almost 50% of rural Virginians lack access to high speed internet and 29% don’t have any internet service at all. The Northam Administration has set a goal of 100% connectivity by 2028. Digital learning and connectivity at school and at home enables students to be prepared for tomorrow’s jobs and levels the playing field for students regardless of their affluence level or geographic location.
Quality of public school buildings and grounds is a health, educational, and environmental equity issue for families and communities. Facilities are not neutral! Many localities do not have a sufficient tax base to maintain their aging schools. Schools should be recognized and funded as an important component of our nation’s infrastructure. The State of Virginia should provide substantial and sustained investment to support renovation, new construction and debt service costs
BUILDING MAINTAINENCE RESOURCES
Schools should take advantage new solar and electric energy technologies that reduce and stabilize energy costs and fossil fuel pollution thus creating a healthier environment for students while concurrently providing real-world STEAM learning opportunities.
Electric School Buses: Support funding, grants and incentive programs that enable school districts to purchase electric school buses and install charging stations and electric transportation infrastructure.
Solar Panels for Schools: The number of Virginia schools embracing solar power has tripled over the past two years because solar offers significant cost savings, clean energy and opportunities for hands-on STEAM lessons. Ninety percent of Virginia's schools use a third party Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Virginia PTA supports legislative action to remove net metering limits and lifting the cap on school use of Power Purchase Agreements to ensure equal access to clean energy solutions for all schools in the state.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-34 and half of all lifetime mental illnesses are identified by age 14. Most students do not receive the mental health services they need due to stigma and lack of access to services and of those who do get help, most do so only in school. The increase in economically disadvantaged students, English Learners, and students needing more intensive special education services has increased the work load for mental health teams.
School Counselor’s role has expanded over the past decade. They collaborate with teachers and other support staff to provide social emotional support, career planning guidance beginning in Kindergarten, and help students develop academic achievement strategies.
School Psychologists often serve several schools. They collaborate with the School Counselor to formulate individualized intervention plans for students who need comprehensive mental health services.
School Social Workers address social issues that affect a child’s development and education and create a vital link between schools, home and community services and resources.
MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
Childhood hunger is linked to academic struggles, difficulties focusing and concentrating, mental health disorders, and increased behavioral referrals. School meals help close the nutrition gap that exists for low-income families and plays a critical role in youth dietary behaviors. In Virginia 1.3 million students participate in the National School Lunch Program and 45.59% of our students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches. As a result of inadequate funding, even with federal subsidies for the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch programs, many schools and school districts sell competitive foods to cover the cost of operating a school nutrition program.
o Virginia PTA asks that the Board of Education, in cooperation with the Department of Health, discontinue the practice of allowing competitive foods to be sold during school hours alongside the school meal.
o Virginia PTA supports efforts to ensure access to school meals are extended to families through the COVID-19 pandemic
SCHOOL NUTRITION RESOURCES
School safety is a critical priority for all parents, educators, students, and community members that should not be taken for granted. Virginia PTA supports:
SCHOOL SAFETY RESOURCES
Celebrating the diversity of views, experiences, cultural heritages and traditions, skills and abilities, values and preferences that make up our communities is at the core of PTA work. It is important to acknowledge and advance work and legislation that addresses structural inequities that are rooted in our nation’s social, political, economic, and educational systems
VIRGINIA PTA POSITION: Advancing Equity & Diversity
National PTA Position:: Addressing Systemic or Institutional Racism
National PTA’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (en Español)
How to Welcome Diverse Perspectives into Your PTA (en Español)
Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit
Support for Latino Families
Support for Military Families
FAMILY RESOURCES TO SHARE
National PTA Parent Resource:Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast
NPR Talking about Race With Your Young Children
CNN Sesame Street Town Hall on Racism
PBS KIDS for Parents Talking to Young Children About Race and Racism
PBS Media Resources to Talk With Children About Race
National Museum of African American History, Talking About Race
Common Sense Media Using Media to Raise Anti-Racist Kids
Good communication is rooted in strong data policies and practices. School Quality profiles are an important tool families can use to understand if their school is meeting the academic and social emotional needs of their students.
Virginia PTA urges the collection and reporting of important data about teacher diversity, mental health programs, and school climate including teacher race and languages spoken other than English Restraint & Seclusion, Threat Assessment and trauma informed care practices.
Virginia PTA supports School Quality Profiles being translated into languages commonly spoken in Virginia.
QUESTIONS: Email Vice President of Advocacy
As PTAs we are dedicated to bringing positive change to our communities in a way that is nonpartisan, nonsectarian and noncommercial. As advocates, we help raise awareness about issues that impact our communities and speak with local, state and federal lawmakers about policies, legislation or budget priorities that support our schools. As a trusted community voice our PTAs/PTSAs can help educate our communities about the voting process and help 'Get Out the Vote' to close participation gaps. As parents, we can show our children the power of their voice by helping them register to vote, making voting a family outing and showing our children that community engagement has the power to drive change.
As a nonprofit, you can spend as much time as you want on voter education and encouraging people to vote as long as it remains nonpartisan and does not support or oppose a candidate for elected office. Here are ideas for how your PTA can get started.
As a PTA/PTSA you should refrain from activities that are directly partisan. While you may do these on your own as an engaged citizen, please be mindful of how you are seen and known in the community and refrain from wearing PTA spirit wear while participating in campaign activities.
ADDITIONAL GUIDELINE RESOURCES:
* CANDIDATES ON THE BALLOT
-> United States President and Vice President (4 year term)
-> United States Senate (6 year term, Class II)
-> United States House of Representatives (2 year term)
-> Local Elections
On Election Day, polling places are open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Anyone in line at 7:00 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
For the 2020 election you may also absentee vote in person (early voting) starting on Friday Sept 18th and ending Saturday Oct 31st.
In Virginia each primary election has a separate ballot listing different candidates. You do NOT need to be registered with a political party to vote in their primary election. To participate, simply tell the primary election poll worker which party's ballot you would like to receive.
College students who are registered to vote but attend school outside of thier home area are eligible to vote absentee. Please check additional information for college students.
Virginia law requires all voters to provide an acceptable form of identification at the polls when you check-in. Who you vote for is always private. When you check-in, the poll worker is simply validating that you are a registered voter and at the correct location.
If you are 65 or older, or have a physical disability, you may vote on Election Day without leaving your vehicle using 'curbside voting'. Remember to bring a helper with you who can enter the polling place to ask an election officer for curbside assistance.
If you require assistance in reading or completing forms, please ask an election official to provide help.
You do not need a reason to vote early in person. Beginning 45 days before Election Day and ending the Saturday before Election Day you can visit your local registrar’s office or a satellite voting location in your county or city to vote early. For the 2020 Presidental election voting starts Friday Sept 18th and ends Saturday Oct 31st.
Ballots will be mailed to applicants starting 45 days prior to the election. For the 2020 General Election ballots will start being mailed on Sept 18th. There are special considerations for Military and overseas citizens to vote absentee.
If you are returning your ballot by mail, it must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by your registrar by noon on the third day after the election (Friday).
Legislation signed on September 4, 2020 will make Ballot Drop Boxes available at some local registrar and satellite voting locations for those that do not want to mail-in thier absentee ballot, but would prefer a drop-off option. Please contact your local registrar office for more information.
Contact Vice President of Advocacy
Join us for a recap of the 2020 General Assembly Session and a look at how the state and federal COVID-19 response has impacted education funding. We'll talk about how you can work with your local school board to support the students and families in your community.
Additional Resources: Ways to Promote Resiliance During COVID-19 || Trauma Informed Teaching-Parenting in On-line learning || Supporting Children During Coronavirus || National PTA Trauma Informed Care Position Statement
Join Hank Millward the Virginia Department of Education's Director of the Office of Specialized Education Facilities and Family Engagement within the Department of Special Education and Student Services (SESS) for this special webinar to answer questions that families have about supporting special needs children during COVID-19.
Achieving equity in a remote learning environment requires intentional programs that ensure support for student populations who often already have reduced opportunities for academic success. In this special webinar Leah Dozier Walker, Director for Equity and Community Engagement at the Virginia Department of Education will share an update on work by Virginia's African American History Education Commission, the equity planning audits recommended for school re-opening and other work the Virginia Department of Education is undertaking to create improved learning opportunities for underserved groups including students of color, early learners, English Learners, students experiencing poverty and homelessness, and students with disabilities.
Leah Dozier Walker has devoted her career to public service and social justice. Leah currently serves as the Director for Equity and Community Engagement at the Virginia Department of Education where she leads statewide efforts aimed at advancing education equity, closing the achievement gap, and decreasing disproportionality in student outcomes. Leah is a proud PTA member and mom to two daughters.
The pandemic has created new and unique changes for special education families. Join Lorraine Hightower for tips and tools that will help you be an effective and powerful advocate for your special needs student as you prepare for the 2020-2021 school year.
Lorraine is a certified dyslexia and special education advocate who works with families to support children of all ages. Through her personal outreach she continues to inform and influence local education leaders, legislators and community members on best practices for children with specific learning disabilities. She has been instrumental in affecting local policy and state legislation to improve the educational experience for special education students.Lorraine is a past chair and current member of the Loudoun County Special Education Advisory Committee and served on the Loudoun County School Board's Special Education Ad-hoc Committee which was tasked with addressing restraint and seclusion practices. Lorraine is a past PTA president for her son's elementary school and was recognized in 2016 as Virginia PTA's Child Advocate of the Year.
Join Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, the Virginia PTA, and the Virginia Latino Advisory Board on August 27th from 7:00PM to 8:30PM for a virtual town hall discussion about the community of support and services available to help Virginia's Latinx community prepare for the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and upcoming school year. The town hall will be moderated by Secretary Qarni and simulcast in English and Spanish.
Los invitamos a una reunión con el secretario de educación, el senior Atif Qarni, la PTA de Virginia, y Virginia Latino Advisory Board el 27 de agosto desde las 7.00 p.m. hasta las 8.30 p.m., para un ayuntamiento en línea, acerca de la comunidad de apoyo y servicios disponibles para ayudar a que la comunidad latina de Virginia se prepare para los desafíos de la pandemia de la Covid-19 y del año escolar que se aproxima. La reunión será dirigida por el secretario Qarni y transmitida simultáneamente en inglés y español.
School Quality Report Cards or 'Profiles' are an important tool that families can use to understand if their school is meeting the academic and social emotional needs of their student. The data in school report cards is also used by school districts to make informed decisions about staffing, professional development and student academic growth. Therefore, it's important that families take time each year to review their school report card and address any areas of concern with their Principal or School Board.
In 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) re-authorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and replaced No Child Left Behind. ESSA requires states and districts to prepare and widely disseminate an annual school report card. In 2015, the Virginia General Assembly also directed the Virginia Board of Education to prepare on-line reports that would effectively communicate the status and achievements of Virginia's public schools. The new 'Virginia School Quality Profiles' were rolled out in 2017 and per ESSA must:
Virginia's School Quality Profiles or report cards are prepared by the Virginia Department of Education according to federal and state law. These official Profiles should be your "go-to" resource for school data. Do not rely on ranking websites that are compiled by real-estate companies and other private entities.
The Virginia PTA urges the Virginia Board of Education to enhance Virginia's School Quality Profiles to include the following important data about teacher diversity, cultural sensitivity, mental health programs, inclusivity and school climate.
Student Privacy 101 for Parents (lots of videos)
Guide to Student Growth Data
Reporting Student Group Data
State Report Card Data Requirements
Teacher Data Literacy
What is Student Data Infographic
2019 Education Data Legislative Review
State Student Privacy Laws
Since 1790, the United States has counted its population every 10 years as required by the US Constitution (Article 1, Section 2). When you respond to the 2020 Census, your answers are kept anonymous. They are used only to produce statistics. The Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies. Your privacy is protected under under Title 13 of the U.S. Code.
The 2020 Census marks the first time you'll have the option to respond online. You now have three ways you can reply to the 10 questions asked on your US census survey.
As a trusted leader within your community, you have the ability to connect with many families that the US Census considers hard to count and ensure that critical federal funds are allocated to your community.
The 2010 Census missed more than 10 percent of all children under age 5 in the U.S! As an example of how impactful this can be; if a 2 year old is missed, they won't be counted (and federal dollars won't be allocated annually for them) until they are in middle school.
In addition to children under 5, other historically, undercounted groups include; complex families, people with disabilities, non-English speakers, immigrant families, veterans, seniors, young adults aged 18-24 and people living in temporary housing (hotels, a friend's house, shelters etc). Sharing information about the census within your school community can help ensure everyone counts.
Census responses determine the annual allocation of $675 billion of federal funds that are critical for schools, students, and younger children. Approximately $18 billion is received by Virginia and will determine:
SAFE: Information is protected under federal law (title 13) and NOT shared with law enforcement or other federal agencies
EASY: A postcard will be mailed in March with instructions. The census form is available in 13 languages, on-line and over the phone.
FAST: It only takes 10 minutes to complete the 10 questions asked on your census form.
IMPORTANT: Money invested in our communities and representation in congress is determined by the census.
Counties and Cities across Virginia each have their own complete count committee and flyers designed specifically for your area. The points of contact for your area can attend your PTA meetings or family events to share information and answer questions specifically for your families.
Census 101 Infographic English & Spanish(other languages available)
Coloring Pages in English & Spanish
List of Census Questions
Virginia's Hard to Count Communities
Common Situations Where Children Aren't Counted(family flyer)
Counting Children (How You Can Help)
Counting Virginia's Dollars (GW Institute of Public Policy)
Virginia PTA is a member of several state coalitions and commissions that align with our mission and enhance our advocacy efforts. As a member of these coalitions, Virginia PTA collaborates with other state associations and entities, signs-on to letters to policymakers and provides public comment on matters that support and advance our positions, resolutions, state legislative priorties and mission.
National PTA also belongs to federal policy coalitions that enhance federal advocacy efforts. You can learn more about building coalitions to support your work locally using National PTA's tips on how to build and join coalitions.
The Virginia Public Education Coalition (VPEC) is the unified voice of twelve Virginia state education associations who advocate for and work to improve K-12 education in the Commonwealth of Virginia. VPEC members are:
The Alliance for Virginia Students is committed to encouraging all Virginians to demand high quality educational opportunities for every child in the Commonwealth. The Alliance for Virginia’s Students was created in 2003 to build a statewide, grassroots advocacy network that promotes state policies and financial support that are necessary for excellence in public education from pre-kindergarten through graduate studies. Alliance members are:
For questions about Virginia PTA’s participation in policy coalitions or our advocacy efforts, contact Virginia PTA's Vice President of Advocacy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Advocacy is sharing a story or experience that your child, school or community is dealing with and turning it into an action item - or a request - for a new policy, protocol, change in funding formula or improved training opportunity.
By working together to research issues and exchange knowledge, our PTA members have been sparking change in programs and policies that benefit children for over 120 years.
Equity and inclusion are at the core of our work, as the PTA is a non-profit, non-commercial, non-sectarian and non-partisan organization whose volunteer leaders and members speak out on behalf of children’s rights to secure adequate laws for the care and protection of all children and youth.
As a parent or caregiver, as soon as you speak to a teacher or administrator about a concern, you have become an advocate for your student! Sharing your story and asking for change at the county, state, or national level makes you one of more than 4 million parents or caregivers that are members of the PTA and who volunteer their time, energy and talents to address issues and create opportunities to support the educational experience of students.
Virginia PTA Legislative Priorities are adopted annually in the spring at the conclusion of the General Assembly Session by the Virginia PTA Board of Directors to set direction for the coming year. Legislative Priorites are based on existing position statements and/or resolutions and highlight areas where legislative action is needed to address statewide concerns that affect children and youth. Resolutions adopted at Virginia PTA Annual Meetings are automatically legislative priorities for the General Assembly session following thier approval.
Virginia PTA Position Statements are adopted by the Virginia PTA Board of Directors and are official documents based on our mission, research and/or previous resolutions or positions of either Virginia PTA or National PTA. Position Statements outline the opinion, will, or intent of the association to address a current statewide situation or concern that affects children and youth and which requires statewide or national attention and action to address.
Virginia PTA periodically issues formal letters to elected officials or government agencies; signs-on to coalition letters; or provides formal comment to support and advance our positions, resolutions, state legislative prioriities and mission. Virginia PTA may join with National PTA, other state PTAs as well as other education, civic, civil rights and advocacy associations to amplify our collective messages to elected officials or administration.
Virginia PTA collaborates with other associations to amplify work on our positions, resolutions, state legislative priorties and mission. This periodically results in a joint study or recommendation to advance shared priorities.
Contact Vice President of Advocacy
2020 SPECIAL BUDGET SESSION
On August 18th, the General Assembly will convene at noon to start a special session that will re-evaluate the state budget, address the impact of the pandemic and discuss policing reform.
We need YOUR help to start a virtual rally to restore K-12 funding and #FundReturn2School. We're asking you to get active on your PTA and personal social media accounts.Whether schools open in person or virtually they will need funding to implement new safety and equity measures.
HERE'S WHAT WE ARE ASKING FOR:
✅ Restoring the $500M of K-12 funding that was unallotted in April;
✅ Funding $600M for Flexible K-12 Pandemic Response;
✅ Restoring and Expanding funding for High-Speed Broadband;
✅ Restoring $50M for School Counselors;
✅ Providing a Registered School Nurse for every school;
✅ Improving accessibility of licensed, affordable childcare;
✅ Inclusion of teacher diversity data and language spoken on the School Quality Profiles to turn #Reports2Results
Prior to the pandemic, historic investments were made in K-12 education that would have reversed Virginia's position as 42nd in the United States for per pupil state spending.
In March, the General Assembly adopted a $135 billion budget which assumed annual revenue growth of 3% and included $8-9 billion annually for education.
In April, in anticipation of a revenue shortfall from COVID, the General Assembly unalloted or froze ~$3 billion in spending over the biennium. This included tabling $50 million for School Counselors, unalloting $14 million for Broadband and unalloting $500 million for K-12 education:
In July, it was announced that state revenue grew by 2%. This means the projected $1 billion of loss in year one turned out to be a shortfall of $236.5 million, or a 1.1% difference between the budget adopted in March and actual revenue growth. Recent estimates show that federal aid will fall short of providing schools the funding needed to fully meet safety guidelines for physical reopening.
Virginia's schools rank 42nd in the country for per pupil state spending and 33rd in the country for early childhood. Schools need flexible funding to ensure safety measures are in place to protect students and staff. This includes widespread rapid COVID testing, installation of plexi-glass shields, supplies to clean and sanitize multiple times a day, ability to provide staff and students with PPE and adjustments to transportation and school meal service.
With many students learning at home, it is imperative that the digital gap be addressed by funding devices and Wi-Fi access, while simultaneously accelerating broadband expansion for every Virginian.
The Commonwealth Institute estimates that to meet safety guidance schools will need ~$460 per student, which is a state investment of $600M in flexible pandemic response funds.
THIS IS HOW YOU CAN HELP!!
GET ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA!
Share or post on your PTA social media pages to raise awareness in your community AND join our #TakeAction4Kids Challenge.
CALL OR EMAIL YOUR DELEGATE!
Legislators respond best to personal stories and asks from their constituents. Letters don't have to be long, just a short statement about what's important to you and why you want your legislator to take a stand for education.In addition to emailing your own delegate. This session we encourage you to write letters to the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees.If you want to use a template letter, you can use this form letter from our coalition partner, Fund Our Schools.
WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper reminding your community why it's important to fund education.