2021 General Assembly Session
On January 13th, the General Assembly will convene at noon for its 2021 Session. In odd numbered years the General Assembly, which consists of 100 Delegates and 40 Senators, will meet for 30-45 days to re-evaluate the 2 year state budget that was adopted the previous year. This year's session follows an unprecedented Special Session which was convened in August to address a projected $2.8 billion shortfall caused by the pandemic and address criminal justice reform.
We recognize that this is a fiscally challenging year, however, safely re-opening our schools demands a uniform standard of care across the state and should not be deferred to local governments. As our school administrations across Virginia work to provide safe in-person instruction and high-quality distance learning, we know that state and federal funds are needed to to protect the health of our students and ensure a quality education.
You can help #TakeAction4Kids by contacting your legislators, getting active on social media and writting letters to editor. This year we are taking our standard #VAPTACapitolDay virtual with a series of Learning Labs to help you learn about the issues, a virtual rally and an opportunity to connect with legislators via a virtual Constituent Connection meetings. Learn more and register for our 2021 session activities here.
2021 Session Priorities
✅ Protect education funding from fluctuations in sales tax revenue and enrollment
✅ Restore and improve school counselor staffing to provide the national recommendation of 1 counselor to 250 students
✅ Restore funding for early childhood and childcare programs
✅ Restore funding and expand affordability and access to high-speed broadband to support equitable distance learning
✅ Fund a registered school nurse for each school to enable a safe return to in-person instruction
✅ Fund the Board of Education's 2020 School Equity and Staffing recommendations (referenced here)
✅ Include teacher diversity data and languages spoken on the School Quality Profiles to turn #Reports2Results
State Funding Recap
Virginia ranks 41st in the nation for per pupil state spending and 33rd for early childhood education. Fourteen percent of K-12 students in Virginia don't have broadband access at home and 12% of Virginia's K-12 students don't have a computer at home. Sixty percent of Virginia's schools are more than forty years old and do not meet modern health and safety standards. The Virginia General Assembly has under-funded staffing recommendations made by the Virginia Board of Education for the past decade. The resulting over-reliance on local real-estate taxes has widened opportunity gaps across our state.
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. This was a landmark improvement in education funding.
In April, in anticipation of a revenue shortfall from COVID, the General Assembly unalloted or froze $2.8 billion in spending over the biennium. This included tabling $50 million for School Counselors, unalloting $14 million for Broadband and unalloting $490 million for K-12 education including 2% raises for teachers ($288M); a historic expansion of pre-school for at risk 3-4 year olds ($83M); additional funding for high-poverty schools ($61M); lowering the costs of reduced-price lunches ($11M); and a Cost of Competing Adjustment ($20M).
In July, it was announced that state revenue grew by 2% and the shortfall was expected to be $236.5 million, or a 1.1% difference between the budget adopted in March and actual revenue growth.
During the August Special Session some education funding was restored including $37M for early childhood education, $35M for at-risk students, broadband funding was restored to $85M and there was a contingency for teacher pay raises in 2022 if revenue recovered. Additionally, $4.2M was restored for school meals and bill HB5113 passed which requires eligible schools to use the USDA's Community Eligibiliy Provision to provide all students with free school meals regardless of income.
The Governor's December 16th budget announcement further restores funding cut at the start of the pandemic but does not address the Board of Education's long standing recommendations on staffing and teacher support. The following notable restorations are in his proposed budget: $27 million for school counselors; $80 million for a two-percent bonus for teachers/support staff; $16 million to expand access to early childhood education; and $15 million for Broadband expansion in FY2022 via the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI).
This Is How YOU Can Help!!
GET ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA!
Follow @VirginiaPTA for calls to action and information about the session. We encourage you to share posts from Virginia PTA on your PTA page and with friends to raise awareness in your community.
Help us amplify the call to action by joining a #VirtualRally and challenging your community and friends to #TakeAction4Kids.
-> Take a picture holding a sign with YOUR top priority or record a 20 second video sharing your "why"
-> Tag 2 Friends and ask that they join the challenge
-> Set your post to 'public' and tag your legislators and @VirginiaPTA
-> Use the hashtags: #VAPTAAdvocacy #TakeAction4Kids
-> You can also use and share materials from our coalition partner @FundOurSchoolsVA #FundOurSchools
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. Keep your message short and to the point. Here are some tips for a compelling letter to your legislator:
1. Introduce - Share where you live, how you volunteer and the topic you are concerned about.
2. Persuade - Tell your story and how this topic impacts you.
3. Inform - Add data or statements from our resolutions or position statements
4. Conclude - Restate your call to action
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.
2021 VIRTUAL CAPITAL DAY: Webinars, Virtual Rally & Virtual Constituent Connection Meetings & Tips to Watch the General Assembly
2021 Session Priorities
2020 Special Session Wrap-Up
Phased Return to School Position Statement
Inside the Issues
National PTA - Reopening Schools for 2020-21 Position Statement
National PTA - Distance Learning Position Statement
Special Session Priorities (Aug 17th)
Week One Special Session Update (Aug 25th)
Special Session Wrap Up (October 8th)
Preparing for the 2021 Session (December 10th)
Updates on State and Federal Funding (December 22nd)