Nearly 250 superintendents and school business officials gathered in Richmond on January 7-8, 2019, for an information-packed conference that explored state and local budgets and legislative advocacy.
Much of the discussion focused on the hot topics of early childhood education, school safety, the teacher shortage and salaries, school construction, and the state budget. An optimistic picture was painted by Delegate Steven R. Landes and Delegate George Barker as they agreed that the General Assembly is poised to work together across party lines to make progress in this short legislative session. They noted that a primary focus of the state will be grappling with the impact of the new federal income tax changes.
Virginia’s First Lady Pamela Northam, State Superintendent James Lane and Chief School Readiness Officer Jenna Conway announced a new $9.9 million federal grant award to the state for aligning early learning standards for kindergarten readiness as well as to support innovative programs in 10 communities.
Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran also predicted bipartisan accomplishments in the area of school safety, which could include approval of increased funding for more school counselors and additional training for school resource officers and school administrators.
The VASS Award for Outstanding Policy Leadership in Support of Public Education in Virginia was presented to Delegate Gordon C. Helsel, Jr., by VASS President Jeffery Smith who expressed his deep appreciation for the delegate’s commitment to education.
Participants heard from a variety of experts on budget topics including Jim Regimbal, from Fiscal Analytics, who reviewed the state of the Commonwealth’s budget, the Governor’s budget proposals, and the implications of state income and internet sales taxes. Attendees also heard examples of compensating teachers through non-traditional pay structures and shared their own examples with each other, and were updated on regional special education resources and allocation.
Superintendents were encouraged throughout the conference to stay engaged with their legislators on important issues that impact their divisions and heard tips from retired superintendent Jim Roberts on how to talk with legislators about their division’s funding challenges. A panel from VEA, VSBA and the Virginia Association of Counties noted that the Governor’s proposed budget was one of the most positive for public education in years and predicted that more legislators will have a greater willingness to work across party lines, which bodes well for public education.
Attendees were updated on ESSA School Expenditure Reporting, the health of the Virginia Retirement System, and property and casualty insurance pitfalls in the wake of natural disasters.
Following the conference’s conclusion, many superintendents attended a special reception at the Governor’s mansion hosted by Governor Northam and the First Lady.
To access the presenters’ materials, please click here. For more photos and coverage, check out @VASSNews on Twitter.