Public Comments for 02/17/2021 Appropriations - Elementary and Secondary Subcommittee
SB1257 - SOQ; school board to provide at least three specialized student support positions.
Last Name: Stewart Organization: The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis Locality: Richmond

More than a decade ago, the General Assembly put in place a support cap which severely limited the level of support staff the state funded. As a result, since 2009, there has been a 39% drop in state funding for support staff in schools. Despite student enrollment increasing by 55,000 students, support staff in the state has dropped by nearly 2,000 positions. On top of that, the declines were four times greater in divisions with the highest share of students of color. This amended bill puts us on a path to begin correcting for these inequitable cuts put in place a decade ago, and comes at a time when students will need these support services more than ever. We know from extensive surveys that students are experiencing unprecedented mental health challenges at this time, and addressing their accumulated trauma over the years to come is a key part of getting them back on track. Additional social workers, psychologists, nurses, licensed behavior analysts, and other licensed health and behavioral positions funded through this bill will be critical for attending to students’ health and emotional needs and setting them up to reach their potential in the classroom. The Commonwealth Institute and the other 16 member organizations of the Fund Our Schools coalition fully support this legislation.

Last Name: Rachael Deane Organization: Legal Aid Justice Center Locality: Richmond

The Legal Aid Justice Center supports this bill, which will set standards for specialized support staff in public schools and direct state funds for these positions. Support staff such as school pyschologists, nurses, and social workers are more critical than ever to address the needs of students during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last Name: Duke Locality: Glen Allen

Please support SB1303 in lieu of substitution bill. Schools have been closed long enough and need a clear plan to re-open. Many will not do this on their own until they are required to by law. Legislate required opening of face to face will get the ball rolling with re-opening plans from all schools. Put Virginia children's needs at the table with teacher unions. Do schools exist to provide comfortable jobs for teachers, or DO THEY EXIST TO EDUCATE CHILDREN? The answer is clear, educating children is the reason for schools, and it is not happening adequately in the virtual format.

Last Name: Washington Organization: Retired Educator Locality: Midlothian

Please support our students by ration of 3 support staff to every 1,000 students in every support staff positions: social workers, psychologists, nurses, licensed behavior analysts and assistants, and other licensed health and behavioral positions.

Last Name: Harris-Braxton Organization: Virginia First Cities (VFC) Locality: Richmond

Virginia First Cities (VFC) Supports SB1257 that funds the Standards of Quality. VFC believes funding required to fund this bill is of the highest priority, especially in areas that provide additional assistance to challenged schools. VFC also strongly supports efforts that provide training and mentoring for school principals.

Last Name: Reid Locality: Midlothian

As a retired CCPS school psychologist I remember when the media talked about Columbine or later Virginia Tech disasters, it was poor John Q Public. How could we know about these things? Research now show that there are always signs and symptoms if there is someone present to notice! There is also a myth that students won’t tell us but I can tell you that is not true. Students want to help themselves and their friends if given the opportunity and skills to talk about mental health issues. It is no longer acceptable to say sorry after the fact. It is time to do something. Prevention and intervention need to occur in the buildings where the students reside . Services in schools give us the best opportunities to hear what students need (like how to help a friend and community resources). I am writing to support Senate Bill1257 because I know what the unmet needs have been for years And those needs are now exeracerbated by the COVID crisis, political unrest, and economic insecurity. Intervention does work and can prevent acts of violence against others as well as suicide. Most serious mental health issues develop in mid to late adolescence and early services can support families. Milder problems can be helped by giving students stress management skills. Earlier intervention is also cheaper since expense is always a concern.

Last Name: Bowker Locality: Richmond

Please pass SB 1257 to ensure 3 positions to every 1,000 students for support staff positions. It is vital to create additional positions to support students, especially in light of the pandemic and its consequences for students. Please ensure that students are supported when they return to school.

Last Name: Griffey Organization: Voices for Virginia's Children Locality: Henrico

Voices for Virginia’s Children supports equitable education funding for all students to succeed. Support position are critical to ensure children’s well-being is supported inside and outside the classroom. They help promote trauma-informed and trauma-responsive school settings and can help identify and address challenges children are experiencing that create barriers to learning. Please support SB 1257 and the Senate’s approach to providing additional specialized support positions for the next school year.

Last Name: Forrester Locality: Richmond

My name is Anne Forrester and I am an ESL teacher in Richmond. I am urging in the strongest possible terms that you support HB1257 which would provide critically needed social, emotional and mental health support staff to serve Virginia's students. I can tell you first hand that although policy makers usually talk about "learning loss" , the social, emotional and mental toll of the pandemic on our students is by far the most urgent issue. The support staff ratio provided in this bill is imperative to allowing students to heal from the experience of living through this past year and then move on to learning.

Last Name: Ward Organization: Virginia Public Education Partners Locality: Midlothian

I support HB1257. Now more than ever before, our students need these positions funded and ratios of 3 positions to every 1,000 students should be maintained for social workers, psychologists, nurses, licensed behavior analysts and assistants, and other licensed health and behavioral positions. Accumulated trauma and mental health issues for students have been magnified as a result of the pandemic, and these positions, which the state has been underfunding for more than a decade now, are critical to helping to address those challenges and ensure students are supported in their return to school. Please support HB1257.

SB1288 - Special education; Department of and the Board of Education to develop new policies and procedures.
Last Name: Duke Locality: Glen Allen

Please support SB1303 in lieu of substitution bill. Schools have been closed long enough and need a clear plan to re-open. Many will not do this on their own until they are required to by law. Legislate required opening of face to face will get the ball rolling with re-opening plans from all schools. Put Virginia children's needs at the table with teacher unions. Do schools exist to provide comfortable jobs for teachers, or DO THEY EXIST TO EDUCATE CHILDREN? The answer is clear, educating children is the reason for schools, and it is not happening adequately in the virtual format.

Last Name: Steele Locality: Henrico

Yes we need to get our kids back in school dull time it's been way to long now the kids are hurting more ways then one please pass the bills and get our kids back in school asap

Last Name: Asip Organization: Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE) Locality: Powhatan

Thank you Madam Chair and members of the committee! My name is Mike Asip and I am speaking on behalf of the Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE), including over 400 members who directly supervise the services for more than 165,000 Virginia students with disabilities. VCASE supports many of the JLARC recommendations, but hopes that some of the recommendations as expressed in SB1288 can further be considered for revision and/or clarification before becoming law. VCASE has shared some of these concerns in writing with Sen. Dunnavant. That is why VCASE supports HB2299 moving forward as the leading bill addressing JLARC recommendations. We look forward to continuing our work with the General Assembly and the Department of Education in addressing many of the JLARC recommendations that can have a positive impact on students with disabilities and their families. I join other local special education leaders across the Commonwealth of Virginia who strongly support the following as JLARC recommendations are considered: * Increased funding directly to localities to provide personnel and other resources needed to address greater monitoring and accountability. The JLARC recommendations have not comprehensively addressed the unbalanced local responsibility for funding special education services. The Commonwealth should increase its investment in the education of students with disabilities through greater funding to localities. We had hoped the General Assembly could pass House Budget Amendment 145 #31h (thank you Del. Guzman!) that would provide $3.96 million directly to localities in this effort. * Comprehensive planning and resources to address the special education teacher and staff shortages, which play a large role in inconsistencies of IEP development and quality. * Required training and licensure requirements for general education teachers and school administrators regarding IEP development; inclusive teaching practices; and their roles in the IEP development process. Thank you for your service to our citizens and your vote to conform SB1288 to HB2299! Dr. Mike Asip

Last Name: Asip Organization: Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE) Locality: Powhatan

Thank you, Chairman and members of the House Education SOL and SOQ Subcommittee. I am speaking on behalf of the Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE), I am writing you ask that you vote to conform SB1288 (Sen. Dunnavant) to HB2299, sponsored by Del. Carr. HB2299 is the preferred bill as the General Assembly addresses several of the 27 JLARC recommendations moving forward. VCASE supports many of the JLARC recommendations, but hopes that some of the recommendations as expressed in SB1288 can further be considered for revision and/or clarification before becoming law. VCASE has shared some of these concerns in writing with Sen. Dunnavant. That is why VCASE supports HB2299 moving forward as the leading bill addressing JLARC recommendations. This is a comprehensive bill addressing JLARC recommendations. We look forward to continuing our work with the General Assembly and the Department of Education in addressing many of the JLARC recommendations that can have a positive impact on students with disabilities and their families. I join other local special education leaders across the Commonwealth of Virginia who strongly support the following as JLARC recommendations are considered: * Increased funding directly to localities to provide personnel and other resources needed to address greater monitoring and accountability. The JLARC recommendations have not comprehensively addressed the unbalanced local responsibility for funding special education services. * Comprehensive planning and resources to address the special education teacher and staff shortages, which play a large role in inconsistencies of IEP development and quality. * Required training and licensure requirements for general education teachers and school administrators regarding IEP development; inclusive teaching practices; and their roles in the IEP development process. Thank you for your time!

Last Name: Wanders Organization: School bus drivers Locality: Virginia Beach

We school bus drivers need this training

SB1316 - Child care providers; background checks, portability.
Last Name: Ragland Organization: Department of Social Services Locality: Richmond

Available to answer questions that the committee may have

SB1357 - Standards of Learning; reading & mathematics assessments for students in grades three through eight.
Last Name: Duke Locality: Glen Allen

Please support SB1303 in lieu of substitution bill. Schools have been closed long enough and need a clear plan to re-open. Many will not do this on their own until they are required to by law. Legislate required opening of face to face will get the ball rolling with re-opening plans from all schools. Put Virginia children's needs at the table with teacher unions. Do schools exist to provide comfortable jobs for teachers, or DO THEY EXIST TO EDUCATE CHILDREN? The answer is clear, educating children is the reason for schools, and it is not happening adequately in the virtual format.

Last Name: Steele Locality: Henrico

Yes we need to get our kids back in school dull time it's been way to long now the kids are hurting more ways then one please pass the bills and get our kids back in school asap

Last Name: Harris Locality: Floyd

Im a student from floyd i hate online school because it is harder and i dont get to see a lot of my other friends.Its been hard and i hope this all ends so we can see all of our friends again and for things to go back to normall again.

Last Name: shibley Locality: Sterling

You need to open up our schools to 5 days! My kids have fallen way behind and hate school. I will have one starting middle school and a junior in high school! My son NEEDS to go to high school 5 days s week. His most important year. Don't delay this. You gave vaccinations to the teachers. They should have to go back in person and if not, find ANOTHER JOB! it's not rocket science people! Offer virtual to those who are scared and the rest if us 5 days. You are wasting precious time, that we will never get back. You had a YEAR TO FIGURE IT OUT. We are on of the wealthiest county and use to have an excellent school system..not anymore! People are having to put their kids in private schools, home schooling or just flat out moving to a different STATE. THIS IS ABSURD. Get our kids back to school 5 days a week and get the sports back and running properly. My kids deserve better them this! Kids are committing SUICIDE ! The mental health is at stake in do many of these kids. Do your jobs and get schools back and running 5 days a week!

Last Name: Thrift Locality: Norfolk

I encourage you to support both of these bills. As our Governor stated, it is time to get our children back in the classroom. After losing 3 months of school in the spring of 2020 and many districts remain virtual, our students are not receiving the education they need and deserve. Most teachers are trying but there is no way students that are learning virtually are getting the same amount of instruction as students in a classroom. I know some students are flourishing but most are not. I know families that have changed residency to other states where they kids can get in person learning. I have friends struggling because they are paying for private school because their child(ren) need in person instruction. SOLs for all grade levels should be done away with. They are without a doubt the worst thing that’s happened to education. Ow teachers teach to a test. I hear from so many teachers that they don’t have time to do all the fun stuff they’d like to because they have to make sure students are prepared for the SOLs. I know this bill only deals with 3rd-8th grade but it’s a start. Growth based assessments are certainly more appropriate especially after all the school that was missed because of COVID. If you are unsure on how to vote regarding SOLs, ask a teacher. They will tell you that SOLs need to go!

Last Name: Hay Locality: Virginia Beach

We need SB1303 passed for our students across Virginia who NEED face-to-face education. I believe the following reasons are important to consider reopening school for face-to-face instruction. I am not linking articles to each of my points but trust you can find the data to support my assertions with a simple google search if interested in learning more. 1. Mental health. Remote learning has isolated students and has increased depression, anxiety, suicide, and a host of mental health issues among our students. Social interaction with peers is critical for emotional wellbeing and virtual education will continue to erode student mental health the longer it is allowed to continue. 2. Lack of interaction in the classroom decreases engagement, hinders teambuilding skills and collaborative learning, and disrupts learning about diverse perspectives. Working together in the classroom allows students to work together in real-time, without the option of "logging off" or "checking out" during a virtual presentation or workgroup. It encourages critical thinking in a group environment to solve problems collaboratively. 3. Many classes cannot be experienced adequately without hands-on opportunities. For instance, my son is a trombone player, and band has been quite difficult for him on his own. As a support instrument that doesn't play the melody, it has taken a large part of the joy and engagement of working together with a band as he cannot see how he contributes to the whole. In addition, I have two students taking STEM classes. Instead of building circuits and doing other projects that would be dangerous doing at home on their own to learn certain skill sets and education modules, they have spent a lot of time viewing YouTube videos and watching STEM instead of engaging in STEM. I know of several other students who can't enjoy their vocal music or theater classes as well, and then there are the students who want to study the trades and are missing valuable hands-on experience the trades education requires. 4. All COVID-19 data points to virtually no risk of serious illness or death to people under age 20. In addition, in school districts where in-person education is offered, school transmission rates are extremely low or non-existent. We are holding our students hostage and asking them to sacrifice their education by keeping them virtual. 6. Virtual learning puts an incredible burden on low-income, single-parent, and dual working-parent families, especially those with students in the earlier grade levels. Virtual learning requires parents to pay for childcare, and in many cases, students will be left unmonitored and unaccountable, except in the grade book. This scenario will not encourage students to reach their full potential by any measure. It is time to stop allowing fear to dominate our decisions and to instead move forward in providing the face-to-face instruction students need for their overall academic and mental health. A lot has been learned in the past few months to allow for our students the chance to return to some normalcy, in an environment that challenges them academically, grows them socially, feeds them emotionally, and refreshes them physically. Important growth metrics and many opportunities have been lost the past 10 months by Virginia's students, and it's time to work towards helping them make great strides forward again in their education. Thank you.

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