Public Comments for 02/17/2021 Appropriations
SB1127 - Charitable gaming; conduct of instant bingo, network bingo, pull tabs, and seal cards.
Last Name: Mayer Organization: NR Warriors Baseball Club Locality: Suffolk

We have used bingo for years to support the Nansemond River High School Baseball program to fund field enhancements and maintenance, fall uniforms, the purchase of training equipment, fund the varsity program’s spring break tournament fees and most importantly, providing scholarships for graduating baseball players . I support this bill in its amended form because it includes Youth sports. There remains an area of concern fir the charities I represent. It deal with the geographic restrictions on small organizations like ours. The bill in its current form would provide preferential treatment to charities located near bingo halls that have higher gross revenues. This would have a disproportionate impact on my charities impacting their mission. I would recommend strong consideration of this concern by either redrafting that wording or delaying the bill in favor of a study to understand the impact. Again, the money raised through charitable gaming is our lifeblood and provides opportunities for many kids that may not never have the chance otherwise.

Last Name: Zajur Organization: Virginia Hispanic Foundation Locality: Richmond, VA

Honorable Members of the General Assembly: Please be informed that the Virginia Hispanic Foundation (Foundation), the educational and non-profit subsidiary of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, staunchly opposes Senate Bill number 1127 as it is currently written. Virginia Hispanic Foundation has been working with Virginia Union University , under an organization known as the Virginia Hispanic African American Alliance, for over a year. This alliance was created to educate and promote in the workforce students who are considered socially and economically disadvantaged. One of the primary mechanisms we use to raise funds and support these students in their educational journey are the proceeds of charitable gaming. Charitable gaming has positively affected our student base who are disadvantaged and an important sector of our economy. The Virginia Hispanic Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profits as regulated by the IRS. Further because our entity is considered private we do not enjoy the benefit of receiving funds from the Virginia Lottery. As such, charitable gaming is a mechanism of at least attempting to bridge this disparity gap which has plagued our community for many generations. Because our institution and our Hispanic community have a stake in this legislation we strongly object to being excluded from participating in the drafting of this legislation. Secondly, we oppose this legislation because, while it attempts to include our community into the equation, it does so in a very limited way, by precluding charitable gaming for our institution throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Currently the legislation as introduced allows our institution to engage in charitable gaming within the jurisdiction and adjacent jurisdictions in which our principle office is located. This is another example of the disparity placed upon our institution. The Virginia Lottery is allowed to serve the entire Commonwealth of Virginia for its public institutions of higher learning. Yet, our institution, who have students throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, are limited to a mere couple of counties. If the ABC/Gaming Subcommittee as well as the General Laws Committee believe that better control or reform of the charitable gaming should be implemented, then we support you wholeheartedly. However, it is not reform to deny a significant segment of our community, such as Hispanic Foundation, the opportunity to participate in the drafting of legislation that impacts socially and economically disadvantaged students who are a strong and vibrant voting segment our community. As such we strongly oppose this legislation as currently drafted.

Last Name: Lucas Organization: Virginia Union University Locality: Richmond, VA

Honorable Members of the General Assembly: Please be informed that Virginia Union University (Union) staunchly opposes Senate Bill number 1127 as it is currently written. Virginia Union University has been working with the Virginia Hispanic Foundation, under an organization known as the Virginia Hispanic African American Alliance for over a year. This alliance was created to educate and promote in the workforce students who are considered socially and economically disadvantaged. One of the primary mechanisms we use to raise funds and support these students in their educational journey are the proceeds of charitable gaming. Charitable gaming has positively affected our student base who are disadvantaged and an important sector of our economy. Virginia Union University is a 501(c)(3) non-profit as regulated by the IRS. Further because this entity is considered private, we do not enjoy the benefit of receiving funds from the Virginia Lottery. As such, charitable gaming is a mechanism of at least attempting to bridge this disparity gap which has plagued our community for many generations. Because our institution and our community has a stake in this legislation we strongly object to being excluded from participating in the drafting of this legislation. Secondly, we oppose this legislation because, while it attempts to include our community into the equation, it does so in a very limited way, by precluding charitable gaming for our institution throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Currently the legislation as introduced allows our institution to engage in charitable gaming within the jurisdiction and adjacent jurisdictions in which our principle office is located. This is another example of the disparity placed upon our institution. The Virginia Lottery is allowed to serve the entire Commonwealth of Virginia for its public institutions of higher learning. Yet, our institution, who has students throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia is limited to a mere couple of counties. Virginia Union University was founded in 1875 and took its present name in 1899. It has educated students from all walks of life and from the vast majority of the counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Union’s history in conjunction with our alliance with the Foundation demands an acknowledgement of the breath of our voter base. As such, please be placed on notice of our concern regarding this legislation. If the ABC/Gaming Subcommittee as well as the General Laws Committee believe that better control or reform of the charitable gaming should be implemented, then we support you wholeheartedly. However, it is not reform to deny a significant segment of our community, such as Union and the Foundation, the opportunity to participate in the drafting of legislation that impacts socially and economically disadvantaged students who are a strong and vibrant voting segment our community. As such we strongly oppose this legislation as currently drafted.

Last Name: Goin Locality: MIDLOTHIAN, VA

Bill SB1127 will kill hundreds of jobs directly in Charities all over the commonwealth, by making it impossible for charities to be able to raise any amount of funds using the charitable gaming system. Food banks will not get the resources they need, in a time when they need it most, Students will no longer be able to get scholarships, and thats just the tip of the iceberg if this thing passes. Mr Reeves, kept moving the target in his amendments, and what for may I ask ? There is no need to for this Bill, and it is purely being forced through the assembly to hurt charities for nefarious reasons in a time they need more support and help, not less. During the committee session of 1-27-2021 Mr Reeves time and again argued "facts" that had no basis in reality. He time and again misrepresented charitable gaming and the electric pull tab machines, or was completely ignorant of exactly what his bill was for and how it would work. This from a Senator is supposedly understands the system.. So what he says in committee were either bold faced obfuscation of the truth, or he is ignorant of the laws and the facts in which he is basing his Bills merits. Case in point he kept insisting the machines "paid no taxes" and "have no oversight". When the truth of the matter is the Charities get taxed based on TOTAL GROSS INCOME as a WHOLE of ALL Games. GAME MACHINES INCLUDED. Virginia Charities pay MORE Taxes per dollar than Rosies, or the Skilled Gaming machines. As for oversight. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services does have oversight and he is reworking the laws that oversees them. That is fundamentally part of SB1127. So that right there is pure obfuscation of the truth. He also should be fully aware that DAGCS gets quarterly and annual reports from the Charities and pays the audit fees ( additional taxes ) on the GROSS Sales not the NET. As he even mentioned in his comments that he talked to DAGCS when formulating this bill. Consider that Mr Reeves received the most donations from Queen of Virginia Skills & Entertainment LLC and POM of VA LLC ( Manufacturer of QoVA MACHINES ) of any assembly member, Senate or House, during the period of 2019 to 2020. $5,000 1/4/2019 $5,000 5/20/2019 $5,000 1/2/2020 $5,000 9/15/2020 Thats $20,000 from the maker and operators of the skilled gaming machines that are in convenience stores across the commonwealth, whose direct competition is of course, Charitable gaming. So why this bill ? Lets look at who benefits from killing all the mom and pop bingo halls, VFWs, FOPs, and all the small local charities that rely on this income ? Queen of Virginia LLC So lets not kill the one income stream many of these charities have. It would kill the charities and destroy the jobs of Virginians across the Commonwealth that are employed by these non-profits. This Bill should die here as it serves no purpose, other than to benefit Mr Reeves' patrons.

Last Name: Guevara Locality: Louisa County and Wise County

As both an environmental science student and a concerned citizen, I ask that you consider stopping or at least rewording SB1127 to exclude conservation organizations. As proposed, it would severely impact nonprofit organizations such as the Cave Conservancy of Virginia (CCV), whose efforts and donations go to far more than just supporting, researching, and protecting the fragile and unique karst systems in our state that provide sources of drinking water and are home to several unique and endangered species. The CCV also supports other worthy causes that the local communities depend on, including local schools, landowner support, and even recreation. Please, for the sake of all those who live, learn, and rely on these incredibly environmentally important areas, reconsider this bill and its wording.

Last Name: Ahn Organization: Holston High School Karst Club Locality: Damascus

I am a teacher and sponsor of the Karst Club - a club that exposes young people to the wonders beneath our feet in the caves and karst areas of our area. I am very concerned about SB1127 because of the funding loss to organizations like the Cave Conservancy of the Virginias who have supported people like me. CCV members have helped me on numerous educational trips underground with students and have provided the guidance and safety needed to open up whole worlds to my students. Please seek a way to allow conservation organizations like the CCV to continue their very good work in Virginia.

Last Name: Lachniet Locality: Washington County

Senate Bill 1127 would eliminate the ability of nonprofit conservation groups to raise funds through charitable bingo operations, something that has been legal and well-regulated in Virginia for many years. I am on the board of one such organization, the Cave Conservancy of the Virginias, but I am writing today not on their behalf, but as private citizen and longtime Virginia caver deeply concerned about cave and karst conservation in the Commonwealth. Please consider defeating this bill, or amending it to allow conservation organizations continued access to this vital funding source (perhaps using language similar to the provisions that reference volunteer fire departments and sports organizations). Organizations like CCV have provided critical support for local karst research and conservation efforts throughout the state. In particular, CCV has awarded over $1 million in grants since 1980, and has worked closely with state agencies including the Virginia Cave Board and Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Last Name: Britton Organization: Conservation Locality: Hanover

I have had the rare privilege of working with several charitable non- profit 501-C3 conservation organizations over the last 40 years. I have had first hand knowledge of all the incredible work that these organization do for our State.. It is absolutely inconceivable to me that anyone would even consider sponsoring a bill that has eliminated the ability for conservation groups to participate in charitable gaming to raise funds. The state of Virginia does not have enough funds in their current budget to even come close to filling the void that would be created by such a drastic measure.. Most of our conservation groups here in Virginia have worked closely with local and State government to help protect some of our most important resources. Virginia is one of the most diverse and beautiful places on this planet earth and it takes a lot to keep it that way. Let’s not do anything that will mess it up by passing a bill like this. I hope it was just an oversight by someone who just forgot to include conservation organizations when they wrote this bill.

Last Name: Brown Organization: Concerned citizen Locality: Wise

As worded, Senate Bill 1127 would eliminate the ability for not-for-profit conservation organizations to raise funds through charitable gaming (Bingo). In my experience, Bingo games are already highly-regulated and tightly-run. Charitable gaming raises irreplaceable funding to support rural and low-income communities in the form of grants to restore and conserve natural resources, such as rivers, vistas, wildlife habitat, and caves, as well as public awareness, education, and engagement of our youth. Without charitable gaming, most of these grass-roots level 501(c)3 organizations will suddenly be unable to fulfill their missions. Please table or defeat this bill to ensure that conservation charities can continue to generate funds to support community-based projects that improve the natural wealth of our Commons!

Last Name: Maus Locality: Montgomery

SB1127 - excludes many 501(c) organizations that depend or could depend on charitable gaming as a funding means. I am specifically concern about conservation groups but on the reading one can imagine many omitted categories and then I am sure there are more. Leave the current program alone. It has been worked through for years and seems to be working well. thank you for your service, Charles Maus

Last Name: Riley Organization: Bedford Moose 1897, WOTM 1005 Locality: Bedford

Virginia charities are counting on you and your colleagues to say no. This bill has been submitted as a way to regulate charitable gaming, but there are major flaws with it. First, VDACS already regulates charitable gaming. Secondly, it requires nonprofit fraternals to obtain a license from VDACS. This in itself is not a problem, the problem is that under the license, the charity is required to show 10% charitable use of proceeds. Also, not a problem unless one understands what this really means. The 10% charitable use of proceeds is calculated from gross ticket sales, which exceeds cash purchases 100% of the time. With electronic pull tabs, the player wins free games and plays their winnings back in the game. This creates a large difference between the actual cash generated and gross ticket sales. I know it’s confusing, so here is a real life example: cash in (actual money feed into the machine) is $4800. The cash out (winnings collected by the players) is $3900. The difference in those two numbers is the profit, or “net amount” which is then shared 50/50 between the nonprofit fraternal and the game company. This amount is $900, or $450 each. Now, the actual gross ticket sales is $13,100. This is again due to free games and winnings played instead of cashed out. The problem is that 10% of this number is $1,310! The charity only made $450, but now has to outlay $1,310 in charitable donations. The end result is that this bill in its current form, kills charitable gaming. One example is at the Bedford Moose Lodge. The funds they raise are used to support the annual Wounded Warriors softball games held at the lodge, the Bedford Fire Department, Goode/Bedford/New London rescue squads, Bedford Humane Society and many other local organizations that count on our existence for donations. Without the money created through charitable gaming, not only would these important community events have to stop, but the lodge would likely have to close altogether. Please, please don’t allow this bill to become law.

Last Name: Conway Organization: Virginia Elks Association Locality: Front Royal

SB1127 will harm the Charity dollars given to local communities. Last year the VEA gave $5.6 million to multiple charities in local communities. The VEA strongly opposes SB1127. Please vote it down in committee ThankYou Bob Conway Government Relations Chair Virginia Elks Association

SB1197 - Virginia housing opportunity; tax credit established.
Last Name: Pedowitz Organization: Arlington Chamber of Commerce Locality: Arlington

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce supports SB 1197, a bill to create a Virginia Housing Opportunity Tax Credit. Addressing our housing affordability challenges will require a multi-faceted approach. The Chamber supports both efforts to increase the supply of housing and efforts to ensure access to safe and affordable housing options for our most vulnerable Virginians. The Virginia Housing Opportunity Tax Credit will supplement the Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to attract more private investment into affordable homebuilding in the Commonwealth. We expect that this credit will be a strong investment in our Commonwealth through its investment in housing. We thus encourage the committee to report the bill.

Last Name: Gordon Organization: Virginia Conservation Network Locality: Richmond

VCN and our 150+ partner organizations are in favor.

Last Name: Laura Bateman Organization: Virginia First Cities and City of Richmond Locality: City of Richmond

The Virginia First Cities Coalition and the City of Richmond requests and supports General Assembly actions to provide local governments with all possible tools to deal with the impacts of a market that, on the one hand, is vibrant, and on the other is driving home prices upward to the point of being unaffordable for a vast majority of residents. Our Virginia First Cities need to increase the supply of affordable housing. The Commonwealth can encourage this by providing local governments additional sources for financing and encouraging all possible resources to leverage federal dollars to the benefit of affordable workforce and senior housing. Any and all tools to encourage private developers and non-profits to develop, construct and/or rehabilitate housing that is affordable should be incentivized by the state. This includes specific support for the enactment of a state tax credit program that will work in tandem with the federal Low Income Tax Credit (LITC) program and is specifically for affordable housing.

Last Name: Easter Organization: ChamberRVA Locality: Chesterfield

ChamberRVA fully supports this bill. A state tax credit would provide a critical component for financing low-income housing projects, which are so badly needed in our region and throughout the state.

Last Name: Bruning Organization: Virginia Bankers Association Locality: Glen Allen

Chairwoman Watts and Members of the Committee, the VBA strongly supports Senator Locke's SB 1197. The creation of a Virginia state level affordable housing tax credit compliments and builds on the existing successful federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. This program will enable another crucial tool, along with existing programs such as the Housing Trust Fund, historic rehabilitation tax credit and other public and private sector efforts. The federal LIHTC program has incentivized the development and creation of affordable housing stock in Virginia, but the need remains acute for further development. Banks are committed partners in addressing this gap, working with borrowers to incorporate the tax credits into their financing as well as direct and syndicated beneficiaries of the credits as investments. We appreciate the inclusion of the bank franchise tax in this proposal. Mirroring the LIHTC program to the greatest extent possible is critical to ensuring ease of use and clarity and consistency in assembling the best financing plan for these projects. Virginia Housing is well positioned to administer the program and allocate the credits to meet the key needs of the Commonwealth. For those reasons, we support the bill as another important component of addressing the considerable and urgent need for affordable housing in Virginia. We were disappointed Delegate Bourne's HB 2050 did not advance and encourage you reconsider embracing this proposal this session.

Last Name: Wagner Locality: Gleann Tholastaidh

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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

SB1302 - Crisis Call Center Fund; created, collection of 988 charges.
Last Name: Harish Organization: Inseparable Locality: Arlington

RE: SB 1302, Crisis Call Center Fund Dear Chair Sickles and Members of the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee: I am writing on behalf of Inseparable, a growing coalition of people from across the country who share a common goal to fundamentally improve mental healthcare policy to heal ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. This year, as the recovery from the COVID pandemic begins, America cannot afford to let mental health care fall further behind. Because of the dramatic increase in mental health crises, it has never been more important to invest in mental health and addiction care policy and services. We applaud Senator McPike for introducing SB1302. The success of the new mental health emergency hotline (988) is dependent on a timely and well-resourced nationwide rollout. Key to this is securing expanded and sustainable funds for not only crisis centers, but also for the mental health workforce that will deal with expected increase in demand and provide follow-on services. Like other mental health advocacy groups in the state and nationally, we are concerned that the current $0.12 fee in the bill is not sufficient to cover vital costs. We ask you to please urgently revisit the financial costs that will be generated by the establishment of the hotline and revise the fee amount on the bill. While we appreciate that there are plans to make increases in the future, Virginians are suffering today and need adequate support now. Sincerely, Krithika Harish Inseparable.us

Last Name: Harkey Organization: NAMI Virginia Locality: Hanover

February 11, 2021 Delegate Mark D. Sickles, Chair HWI Committee Virginia General Assembly RE: SB 1302, Crisis Call Center Fund Dear Chair Sickles and Members of the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee: NAMI Virginia is part of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Our mission is to promote recovery and improve the quality of life of Virginians with mental illness through support, education and advocacy. We would like to express our gratitude to Senator McPike for introducing SB 1302, the Crisis Call Center Fund, and to the Committee for hearing this bill today. NAMI supports the vision outlined in the bill, but we believe the bill should be strengthened by small changes, which we believe are critical to meeting the needs of Virginians with serious mental illness. NAMI’s members frequently come to us in need of help and support after enduring life-shattering circumstances. Too often, those circumstances include law enforcement. I’d like to share two brief examples to highlight the pain of inadequate investment in a mental health crisis service system. Recently, a Virginia man reached out to NAMI, distraught. His sibling had been saying things that didn’t make sense and was increasingly paranoid and lashing out, sensing threats where none existed. After an altercation with his partner, who called 911, police came and arrested the man, who was experiencing psychosis and had a family history of serious mental illness. With his family’s advocacy, this man was eventually given a mental health examination. The man and his family were traumatized by the police intervention and the daunting and stigmatizing challenges of navigating the criminal justice system. If they had been able to call 988 and receive a mobile crisis team response instead of police, there would have been no arrest, no criminal record and legal fees, and far less trauma for this Virginia family. Instead, the family’s sole focus could have been on helping this man get the care that he needed – not navigating the criminal justice system. In another instance, a person with bipolar disorder became manic and confused and tried to leave the state. When the family called for help, police arrested their child and held him in jail. Desperate, the family spent heartbreaking hours and significant resources trying to obtain not only legal help, but mental health treatment for their beloved child. Despite their resources, they were unable to navigate an incomprehensible system that criminalizes people with serious mental illness. There are countless families in Virginia whose lives have been turned upside down because of the lack of a sufficient behavioral health crisis system in Virginia. While we appreciate that there are plans to gradually improve this, the slow pace of investment does not do justice to the lives of Virginians who are suffering today and who deserve an investment of more than $0.12 a month. We respectfully request that you reconsider the level of E-911 fee for the Crisis Call Center Fund, clarify that it can be used to support mobile crisis teams, and further clarify that the annual report should include not only recommendations on crisis system needs, but also a recommendation on fee levels needed in the future to support the level of mobile response needed for the complex and acute mental health needs in our communities throughout Virginia. Respectfully, Kathy Harkey, MAPP, BSP, BSMDS Executive Director

Last Name: Young Organization: Twin County 911 Regional Commission Locality: Carroll

Although I am supportive of the National 9-8-8 Crisis Line, I am very concerned about linking the 9-1-1 and 9-8-8 funding. By linking the two, the National VDOT 9-1-1 Coordinator and FCC have ruled that Virginia would be considered as diverting 9-1-1 funds. Additionally, the 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) are not adequately funded. Currently the 9-1-1 Wireless Distribution, offsets an average of 12% of a PSAP's operating costs, and this is before the increases from moving to Next Generation Technology. I urge you to de-couple this Bill from 9-1-1. There will be significant value if 9-8-8 has a separate funding stream and separate visibility on carriers bills. Additionally, line 289 and 290 of the Senate Substitute Bill assigns in-house building repeaters as the number 2 priority. Although again while this important, it is restrictive and not the number 2 priority for 911 PSAPs. This should be removed, or at a minimum changed to "investments to improve location accuracy". I would like to speak, but I am receiving a message that requests to speak are closed. I have also reached out to Senator McPike, but have not been successful in getting a return call. I know others have submitted written comments on the Bill as well.

Last Name: Harkey Organization: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Virginia Locality: Hanover

Delegate Mark D. Sickles, Chair Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee RE: SB 1302, Crisis Call Center Fund Dear Chair Sickles and Members of the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee: NAMI Virginia is part of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Our mission is to promote recovery and improve the quality of life of Virginians with mental illness through support, education and advocacy. We would like to express our gratitude to Senator McPike for introducing SB 1302, the Crisis Call Center Fund, and to the Committee for hearing this bill today. NAMI supports the vision outlined in the bill, but we believe the bill should be strengthened by small changes, which we believe are critical to meeting the needs of Virginians with serious mental illness. NAMI’s members frequently come to us in need of help and support after enduring life-shattering circumstances. Too often, those circumstances include law enforcement. I’d like to share two brief examples to highlight the pain of inadequate investment in a mental health crisis service system. Recently, a Virginia man reached out to NAMI, distraught. His sibling had been saying things that didn’t make sense and was increasingly paranoid and lashing out, sensing threats where none existed. After an altercation with his partner, who called 911, police came and arrested the man, who was experiencing psychosis and had a family history of serious mental illness. With his family’s advocacy, this man was eventually given a mental health examination. The man and his family were traumatized by the police intervention and the daunting and stigmatizing challenges of navigating the criminal justice system. If they had been able to call 988 and receive a mobile crisis team response instead of police, there would have been no arrest, no criminal record and legal fees, and far less trauma for this Virginia family. Instead, the family’s sole focus could have been on helping this man get the care that he needed–not navigating the criminal justice system. In another instance, a person with bipolar disorder became manic and confused and tried to leave the state. When the family called for help, police arrested their child and held him in jail. Desperate, the family spent heartbreaking hours and significant resources trying to obtain not only legal help, but mental health treatment for their beloved child. Despite their resources, they were unable to navigate an incomprehensible system that criminalizes people with serious mental illness. There are countless families in Virginia whose lives have been turned upside down because of the lack of a sufficient behavioral health crisis system in Virginia. While we appreciate that there are plans to gradually improve this, the slow pace of investment does not do justice to the lives of Virginians who are suffering today and who deserve an investment of more than $0.12 a month. We respectfully request that you reconsider the level of E-911 fees for the Crisis Call Center Fund, clarify that it can be used to support mobile crisis teams, and further clarify that the annual report should include not only recommendations on crisis system needs, but also a recommendation on fee levels needed in the future to support the level of mobile response needed for the complex, acute mental health needs in our Virginia communities. Respectfully yours, Kathy Harkey, MAPP, BSP, BSMDS Executive Director

Last Name: Davis Organization: Tazewell County Sheriff's Office - Communications Division / (9-1-1) Locality: TAZEWELL

I am the Director of Tazewell County PSAP. My understanding of Bill SB1302 is to provide a 9-8-8 Crisis Call Center and establish a staff administered by the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services providing a Hotline Center for the purposes of participating in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and to provide consistency with federal guidelines. I'm in support of the 9-8-8 Crisis Line but opposed to this Bill for the following reasons: 1) Separate Bill introduced for the 9-8-8 line; Separating it out of Public Safety Answering Point funds. It should be separate and distinct from the current 9-1-1 legislation 2) The 9-1-1 PSAP Community consistently faces financial challenges and is conducting a cost study to determine the current adequacy of our current 9-1-1 surges to ease the costly increases to the NextGen voice and ever changing data technologies. Technology and costs for NG-911 are increasing our operating costs by leaps and bounds and a increase to what we receive from the wireless E-911 and the prepaid E-911 should be for providing our current expected services to maintain the quality of life for every citizen in State and locally. 3) E911 is in the middle of a huge migration now to Next Generation 9-1-1, which is mandated. PSAP's cannot just not migrate because of lack of funding. This Bill would limit the amount of funding PSAP's would be allotted, when we need these funds more now than ever. Technology is great and the 9-1-1 community is constantly growing and changing and the future is here we need to increase PSAP's funding and not share with another Department. 3) 9-1-1 funds (taxes) are collected to be used for 9-1-1 services / needs. Using these funds for other projects / needs for other Departments could lead a continued problem for the PSAP Community, it could lead to having funds continually diverted to non-9-1-1 needs or projects. I appreciate you time, consideration and efforts on this project, but please consider re-evaluating this SB1302 and designating a separate Bill for the needed funding to the 9-8-8 Crisis Call Center. Thank you.

Last Name: Goller Organization: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Locality: Midlothian, VA

House Committee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the nation's largest organization dedicated to saving lives and restoring hope to those impacted by suicide, appreciates your consideration and thanks Senator McPike for championing the 988 policy and for introducing legislation to support crisis services for callers in need. When 988, the national mental health and suicide prevention crisis hotline number designated by the U.S. Congress, is made nationally available in July 2022 it is crucial that Virginia's local crisis call centers and state crisis capacity is effectively equipped to respond to individuals calling for help. AFSP applauds Senator McPike's effort to increase funding for Virginia's crisis response services, but we acknowledge the body of concerns regarding implementation of SB1302. Implementing service fees on wireless, wireline, and VoIP bills to support 988 would be invaluable. Providing stable funding for 988 centers just as we do for 911 centers is essential for ensuring that calls to 988 are answered quickly and effectively. But, input from professional organizations and policy experts regarding the proposed expanding of Virginia's 911 fee to support 988 has raised notable concerns. We hope that the fees collected to support 988 will not constitute diversion from the dedicated purpose of 911 fees or create jurisdictional challenges between 988 call centers and 911 PSAPs. Collaboration between 911 and 988 as parallel, but independent, response lines will be important, and the points raised by 911 stakeholders should be heeded. Fees collected in support of 988 should receive appropriate guardrails to prevent diversion, similar to 911. AFSP supports regular assessment and oversight of the collection and use of 988 fees to ensure that callers are responded to quickly, that robust services are provided, that at-risk communities are provided specialized services, that data can be used effectively, and that 988 can coordinate effectively with the continuum or crisis and emergency response. AFSP further reciprocates the support of mental health and suicide prevention experts for increased investment in 988 crisis services. Just as 911 PSAPs need robust, dedicated funding to ensure our calls are answered and responded to effectively, so too do 988 crisis call centers need to be prepared to respond to the demand for crisis services. We hope that 988 fees will be in parity with 911 fees, to ensure these parallel systems are both resourced sufficiently so any Virginian, regardless of their crisis or emergency, receives effective responses. We recognize and appreciate the perspectives of numerous stakeholders on the historic implementation of 988. And we applaud Senator McPike's efforts to bring Virginia's crisis response system into the 21st century. AFSP believes that the provision of robust 988 service fees can fortify Virginia's local crisis capacity before July 2022. We encourage the Committee to consider the concerns regarding the diversion of 911 fees and the administrative and funding needs of local crisis call centers responding to individuals in need. Thank you.

Last Name: Milligan Organization: Bristol VA Police Department Locality: Bristol, VA

Senate Bill 1302 proposes and increase in Wireless 9-1-1 surcharge to fund the National 9-8-8 Mental Health Crisis Line here in Virginia. This puts an increase for Next Generation 9-1-1 Sustainable Funding at risk. Please consider this: (1) Propose a separate bill be introduced to fund the 9-8-8 line. It can still utilize Wireless Surcharge. However it should be separate and distinct from the current 9-1-1 legislation. (2) If it continues under this Bill, then increase the surcharge to also address cost increases related to Next Generation 9-1-1 and the emerging technologies in voice and data. Additionally, there is an addition in Item D to make “Inhouse repeaters” the 9-1-1 grant funds second highest priority. This would be devastating to smaller PSAP’s. I would like to propose this be removed or modified to “improvements in location identification accuracy”.

Last Name: Flournoy Organization: ESVA 9-1-1 Commission (Accomack and Northampton Counties) Locality: Exmore, Virginia

My understanding of the bill is the following - 1. Creates a Crisis Call Center Fund (for 9-8-8), 2. Increases the wireless E-911 surcharge from .75 to .94 and increases the prepaid wireless E-911 charge from .50 to .63; some of the additional revenue to the Crisis Call Center and some to PSAP’s (9-1-1 Centers), 3. Expectations with the Marcus Alert System. ---- Some of the revenue attributed to the increase in the tax-rate would be distributed to the Crisis Call Center Fund (to establish and administer the call center) and the remainder of the additional revenue would be distributed to 9-1-1 Centers. Under the bill, .12 of the total monthly wireless 9-1-1 surcharge of .94 would be allocated for the Crisis Call Center Fund and .08 of the total surcharges on prepaid wireless devices (.63) would be allocated to the Crisis Call Center Fund. While this increase in the 9-1-1 taxes should result in additional revenue for 9-1-1 Centers, there are other considerations/concerns: 1. If approved, funds collected for 9-1-1 (and expected to be used for 9-1-1 services in the state) would be used for non-9-1-1 purposes (9-8-8 and the Crisis Call Center Fund). This is against the principle of why the 9-1-1 tax was created and a bigger-issue is the state most likely would be added to the FCC list of states that divert 9-1-1 fees for non-9-1-1 costs (from the NET911 Act from 2008). States on this list are subjects to consequences, such as withholding federal funding and how impacts to participating in aspects of FirstNet. Overall, is not a list a state wants to be on. 2. Our state in in the middle of a major 9-1-1 ecosystem transition (Next Generation 911), with costs incurred and expected to be incurred higher than what 9-1-1 Centers have previously experienced. The expectation would be to assure the necessary funds are provided to 9-1-1 Center’s before any consideration to use 9-1-1 funds collected elsewhere. 3. 9-1-1 funds (taxes) are collected to be used for 9-1-1 services/needs; using these funds for other projects/needs overall could lead to a slippery--slope in our state where these funds continue to be used (diverted) for non 9-1-1 needs/projects. The ESVA 9-1-1 Commission overall supports legislative changes to properly respond to individuals with mental health incidents or during a mental health crisis, however overall does not support the use of taxes/fees collected for 9-1-1 in our state not being used directly to support 9-1-1 services throughout our state, as is included in SB1302.

Last Name: Kuhns Organization: Surry County Emergency Communications Locality: Surry

The idea for a Mental Health hotline using E911 funding is not ideal. As a 911 center, we will still be responsible for taking those mental health calls even though there would be a designated hotline for this. E911 is in the middle of huge migration to Next Generation 911, which is mandated. PSAPs can not just not migrate because of lack of funding. This bill would limit the amount of funding PSAPs would be allotted, when we need these funds more than ever. The transition to Next Generation 911 is a very expensive transition, and E911 will need every bit of funding it can get to make this successful.

Last Name: Laney Organization: Wise County Sheriff's Office Locality: Wise County

In Support of 9-8-8 Crisis Line but opposed to this Bill for the following reasons: 1) Risk of Virginia being placed on the 9-1-1 Diversion List. It is my understanding 9-8-8- would be a diversion based on their review of language in the The New and Emerging 9-1-1 Technologies Act of 2008 (NET 911 Act). Repercussions include Virginia becoming ineligible for grant funding and ineligible to participate on National Committees. 2) The 9-1-1 Community consistently faces financial challenges and is conducting a cost study to determine the adequacy of the current 9-1-1 surcharge for funding increased costs related to the NextGen911 voice and data technologies. 3) Lastly, in line 289 and 290, the Bill proposes a change in priority to include a specific technology "in-building repeaters". I understand this is an important need, in our jurisdiction remote repeaters on public lands is as great a need as in-building repeaters. In either case, I would argue repeaters is not the second highest priority for 9-1-1 but rather training. At a minimum the language should be changed from 'in-house repeater" to 'location identification improvements'. Mu preference would be that prioritization remain with the 9-1-1 Services Board and the 9-1-1 Grant Committee. Thank you for your consideration.

Last Name: BARKER Organization: City of Galax and Twin County E-911 Locality: GALAX

While there is agreement that mental health services should be addressed by the state, including that funding within E-911 funding is diverting needed additional funds from PSAP's. Local E-911 agencies and PSAP's are under a financial crunch to upgrade to NG-911 over the next few years and are seeing technology and operating costs exceeding funds from the state and local approved taxing methods. When you consider the additional costs we now incur locally with additional mental health mandates, we are seeing local budgets stressed. E-911 is at its core a service as important for life saving measures as any other provided or mandated by the state and citizens. I would ask that you consider providing funding in full for PSAP's through the increase in E-911 fees and provide an additional fee for the mental health services.

Last Name: Young Organization: Twin County 911 Regional Commission (Galax, Grayson, Carroll) Locality: Carroll County

Although supportive of a 9-8-8 Crisis Line, I am opposed to this Bill for the following reasons: 1) Risk of Virginia being placed an the 9-1-1 Diversion List. In discussions with Laurie Flaherty, VDOT National 9-1-1 Coordinator, the FCC lawyers, VDOT lawyers are advising 9-8-8- would be a diversion based on their review of language in the The New and Emerging 9-1-1 Technologies Act of 2008 (NET 911 Act). Repercussions include Virginia becoming ineligible for grant funding but more importantly becoming ineligible to participate on National Committees. 2) The 9-1-1 Community is already facing financial challenges and are conducting a cost study to determine the adequacy of the current 9-1-1 surcharge for funding increased costs related to the Next Generation voice and data technologies. 3) Finally, in line 289 and 290, the Bill proposes a change in priority to include a specific technology "in-building repeaters". Again although an important need, in our jurisdiction remote repeaters on public lands is as great a need as in-building repeaters. In either case, I would argue repeaters is not the second highest priority for 9-1-1. Currently training takes that coveted spot. I would that at a minimum the language be changed from 'in-house repeater" to 'location identification improvements". Although my preference would be that prioritization remain with the 9-1-1 Services Board and the 9-1-1 Grant Committee. Thank you for your consideration.

Last Name: Hall Locality: Washington County

I am the Communications Manager for the Washington County PSAP. I think the funding for the Crisis call Center and the PSAP 911 portion should not be co mingled. The PASP Community 911 legislation and this National 988 Mental Health Crisis should be separate and distinct. We as PSAP's are constantly striving to improve the overall voice and data technologies that serve the areas we are in. At this time we are in the process of the Next Generation 911 migration and with this comes additional costs. We currently need all available funding that the wireless surcharges provide our centers and with the co mingling this would drastically reduce the funding for the PSAP and could be detrimental to those smaller PSAPs as well as others. While supporting the Crisis line is not the issue, it should have its own legislation thus not sharing the proposed funding. An additional increase should be designated for the Crisis Line funding, not taking the funding from the PSAP's.

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

SB1321 - Confirmatory adoption; expands the stepparent adoption provisions.
Last Name: Quinn Organization: Adoption & Surrogacy Law Center at Locke & Quinn Locality: City of Richmond

On behalf of the Virginia adoption community - passing this bill is greatly needed. As an adoption practitioner 32+ years, past- president, long-time Fellow and Board of Trustee of the Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys & co-author of the VA CLE Adoption Book - we need this law passed to support the legal stability of children in VA. There are so many situations I encounter on a monthly and even weekly basis - a mom co-parenting with an opioid addicted daughter and a deceased biological father, two foster parents not married and not in a romantic relationship co-parenting a child in need of a forever home with both of those parents, a former ex-boyfriend who helped co-parent for ten or more years with the ex-girlfriend still wanting him to be a recognized parent and a deceased biological father. There are so many more examples where kids just need both de facto - that is, in fact, parents made their legal parents but cannot do so under current VA law that requires they be a married couple. That is not the current reality for many children today. We need to bring Va law in line with the current reality of today’s kids and how they are being co-parented in many non-traditional ways - especially with the opioid crisis. This law is very much needed to protect today’s children. Those of us in the trenches can see this most clearly. Thank you.

Last Name: Butler Locality: Fredericksburg

When two loving parents raise a child they take on a moral and legal responsibility, but unfortunately our current legal system doesn't recognize a second parent and grant them the legal rights they deserve after accepting responsibility of raising the child because they are not of a different sex/gender than the legal parent. This needs to cease for the child's protection and for our community. We need not only to accept everyone to respect them for the roles they fill and give them the legal support they may need! Dani Butler 5800 Up A Way Drive Fredericksburg, VA 22407

Last Name: Fox Locality: Gloucester

I am writing in support of SB1321, in favor of allowing confirmatory adoption in Virginia. I am not personally impacted by this bill, but many in my community are. Children need the security that legally recognized parents can provide, and their lives are made more difficult when barriers exist that keep their parents from advocating on their behalf. I know this all too well, because I know what these barriers have meant for my own children at a different time and place. My young children had very good relations with both me and my spouse prior to, during, and after our divorce. However, a new magistrate who claimed she was "ordained by God to save the children" separated me from my children for the stated reason that I had advocated for marriage equality. She did this by declaring that she would not respect or enforce our shared parenting agreement and threatening to hold me in contempt if I complained, resulting in my ex refusing joint custody/visitation thereafter. I did not see my children again until they were adults. Even though I was a legal parent with full parental rights, these rights were not observed or respected in matters of education, healthcare, mental health, or faith. Eventually I was locked out of all communication and could obtain no further information about my children. I have since reconnected with both of my children as adults. Both suffered extreme psychological abuse, mental anguish and emotional harm because of our loss of contact. I was unavailable to protect them. Precious educational opportunities were also squandered (a full scholarship to a prestigious private school, admission privileges to my prestigious undergraduate university and financial aid at universities where I taught) because of my being blocked from advocating for them. They even suffered needless financial losses because of my inability to manage their educational accounts at particularly critical times. Children need security, and they need their parents, whether they are straight, gay, purple, or polka-dotted. Please give Virginia families the tools they need to ensure continuity of parenting so that that their children do not suffer as mine did. Please support SB1321.

Last Name: Jenkot Organization: Lynnhaven Colony Congregation Locality: Virginia Beach

This Bill is about equal rights!!! Different-sex couples are not forced to marry for both parents to have legal rights and responsibilities over their children, and same-sex couples shouldn’t be either. This bill simply extends the legal rights and responsibilities of parenthood to unmarried same-sex couples as well. Thank you for your work and dedication to represent all people in equality.

SB1328 - State-Funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance program; created.
Last Name: Atkinson Organization: Virginia Commission on Youth Locality: Hanover

Only speak if needed. Legislative staff to the Commission on Youth.

Last Name: Gilbreath Organization: Voices for Virginia’s Children Locality: Chesterfield

Voices for Virginia’s children strongly supports this bill.

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.

End of Comments