The House of Delegates and the Senate both voted to give Virginia teachers’ a pay raise in the budget bills passed with bipartisan support Friday. HB 1800, passed 68 to 30, features a five percent teachers’ raise for Fiscal Year 2022, while its counterpart SB 1100, which features a three percent teachers’ raise, passed 31 to eight. The Senate also passed an amendment to the budget that requires schools to provide in-person learning options in 2021-2022; however, the House defeated a similar floor amendment on Friday.
House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) introduced the floor amendment. “This is not something that should be partisan, and it never has been, and the goal that everyone should be trying to achieve, not at some point in the future, not lamenting where we’ve been in the past, but immediately, that goal should be to get our kids back in school.”
Democratic Caucus Secretary Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax) moved to pass by the amendment. He noted that SB 1303, introduced by Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) to require in-person learning effective July 1, was making its way through the House committee. Simon said the House could better consider a requirement for in-person learning by considering the Senate’s bill in committee, and said voting to pass by, i.e. ignoring, Gilbert’s amendment wasn’t a vote on getting kids back in school, but merely on the legislative process.
Simon said, “Putting a sort of one-sentence budget item like this in the budget is not the way to deal with, I think what we all agree is, a very serious and important problem that is in need of solving.”
He said, “I know we all remain committed to doing a lot of the things that were described and we all share that concern for our kids who’ve been out of school, but again, let’s go through the legislative process.”
Simon’s vote passed 54 to 45.
Governor Ralph Northam has called for both a pay raise for teachers and in-person learning options.
“We were all proud in 2018 to give our teachers the largest single-year pay raise in 15 years. Last year, I proposed an additional three percent pay raise. That had to be cut from the budget last year,” Northam said in his State of the Commonwealth speech.
“Well, tonight I have good news: revenues look good, and we’re going to have more money than we thought. We need to make this teacher bonus a raise, and make it more than two percent.”
Northam recently called for schools to start phasing in in-person learning options by March 13.
“About 40 school divisions currently offer no in-person options, preventing nearly 500,000 students from entering the classroom. This needs to change, even if the decision is difficult,” he said.
The Virginia Education Association (VEA) has opposed both Northam’s call for in-person learning, Dunnavant’s bill, and the in-person learning section of the Senate budget bill.
“No one wants to be back in those buildings more than we do,” VEA President James Fedderman said in a press release after Northam’s announcement. “We know that in-person instruction is the goal, and we believe that we are getting closer to being able to do that every day. However, the best way to move ahead is not to set an arbitrary date.”
Gilbert said on Friday, “These kids need to be back in school, and Madam Speaker, for those who purport to care about the most vulnerable, the most needy, the most-at-risk children, they’re the ones suffering the most right now, not the people of means, not the people who can afford alternatives. The people who can least afford it are the ones suffering the most.”
“All of us should be looking for an opportunity to tell our schools, ‘You need to get our kids back in school’, or at least as this amendment suggests and dictates to make sure that they have that option if they choose it,” Gilbert said. “This is a lost year that we will never get back and it cannot go on a day longer.”
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