INSIDE THE ISSUES
This overview of our Legislative Priorities will connect you with pertinent resolutions, positions, policy letters, research and resources for each of our top priorities so that you can #TakeAction4Kids whether you are advocating at your county School Board Meetings, the General Assembly or on Capitol Hill. Please visit Take Action to learn more about bills we support and actions we are taking in the current Legislative Session and how you can join us to drive change on behalf of students in your community. If you have a new position you would like Virginia PTA to take, please consider writing a resolution.
CURRICULUM - EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
Education received during the first five years of a child’s life is important to a child’s long-term educational success. Virginia currently ranks 33rd in the nation in investment in early childhood education. According to the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program, almost half of Virginia children enter kindergarten without the basic skills they need to succeed in school.
- Virginia PTA supports funding and programs that increase access to and improve the quality and regulatory oversight of Virginia's early childhood care and education system. This includes expanding Virginia’s Preschool Initiative (VPI) and Mixed Delivery Grants to include at-risk three and four year-olds in both public and private settings.
- RESOLUTION: Early Childhood Education
CURRICULUM – CAREER TECHNICAL EDUCATION (CTE)
Career Technical Education (CTE) programs in Virginia public schools serve more than 640,000 students in one or more CTE courses in grades 6-12. CTE programs prepare students for high wage, high skill, high demand careers in existing and emerging industries while meeting the Commonwealth's need for well-trained and industry-certified technical workers. Virginia’s Profile of a Virginia Graduate and new school accreditation standards expanded the focus of CTE to ensure graduates have the knowledge, skills, attributes and experiences identified by employers and educators as critical for success in the workforce.
- Virginia PTA urges the Board of Education, educators, school counselors, career development professionals and administrators to promote career technical education and workforce development programs in a positive light as a respected career path.
- Virginia PTA urges state and local Board of Educations to recognize February as Career Technical Education Month.
- Virginia PTA urges the Virginia Board of Education ensure Agriculture and Forestry is represented on the Advisory Committee for Career Technical Education and that curriculum supports rural workforce development and innovation.
CAREER TECHNICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES
- National PTA Position: Career and Technical Education
- Virginia Department of Education Career Technical Development
- Virginia Advisory Committee for Career & Technical Education
CURRICULUM - FARM to SCHOOL & GARDENS
Agriculture is the largest private industry in Virginia and plays an essential role in our everyday lives, contributing food, fiber for clothing, fuel and stewardship of the land. Farming today uses advanced data collection, sensors, automated machines, biomimicry, drones and other sophisticated technologies, yet is undervalued. Agriculture education should be integrated directly in the curriculum (instead of through the nutrition department) to support rural workforce education and development, increase locally grown foods in school cafeterias and provide hands-on learning for all students.
- Integrate Agriculture Education concepts directly in the Standards of Learning and provide space for school gardens.
- Fund a School Nutrition Integration and Procurement specialist for each region in order to support local economic activity and increase the quantity of locally sourced foods served in school cafeterias
- Support grant and incentive programs for processing-procurement of locally grown food
- Support science credits for high school students taking agriculture classes and a more direct certification path for agriculture education teachers
AGRICULTURE EDUCATION RESOURCES
- RESOLUTION: Agriculture Education, School Gardens and Farm to School
- National Farm to School Network - Virginia page (Benefit Fact Sheet)
- Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom
- National Agriculture in the Classroom - Student Career Center
- VDACS Virginia Agriculture Week (May 11-15)
- Virginia Tech Extension Services
- Robots and the Future of Farming, Smithsonian
CURRICULUM – WORLD LANGUAGES
Studying world languages results in higher scores in verbal and math standardized tests, strengthens critical thinking skills, creativity, problem solving capabilities and memory function. Additionally, the ability to speak, read and write in a world language increases cultural awareness and is essential to attract business, engage in world trade, participate in scientific research, foster diplomacy and respond to global humanitarian emergencies.
- Virginia PTA urges the development of K-16 world language instructional program that supports new language acquisition, retention of heritage languages and programs to recruit and retain qualified world language teachers.
RESOLUTION: World Language Instruction for K-16
- American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century
- American Academy of Arts & Sciences: A Statistical Portrait
- American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
FUNDING & STANDARDS OF QUALITY
Cuts made by the General Assembly during the 2009 economic downturn instituted a ‘cap’ or formula on the amount of state funding provided for vital school support staff. Virginia disproportionately relies on local governments to fund public schools compared to other states, ranking 26th in the nation for per pupil funding when considering the local share of K-12 funding and falling to 42nd in the nation when looking at only the state contribution. Virginia PTA urges the General Assembly to modernize the Standards of Quality to reflect actual school division staffing practices recommended by the Board of Education and pay the state’s share of critical staff positions.
- Lift the 2009 recession-era Support Position Cap & flexibility waivers
- Adjust the SOQ to support essential school staff including full time principals, librarians, technology teachers and nurses for every school.
STANDARDS OF QUALITY RESOURCES
- RESOLUTION: Equal Taxing Authority for Counties & Education Funding
- RESOLUTION: Small Community Schools and Aging School Building Maintenance
- POLICY LETTER: pdf Standards of Quality Public Comments to BOE (154 KB)
- Board of Education 2019 Prescribed (not adopted) SOQ Recommendations
- Department of Education Resources on Standards of Quality
- Virginia Code Title 22.1 Education; Chapter 13.2 Standards of Quality
INFRASTRUCTURE - BROADBAND
Access to high speed internet touches almost every aspect of modern life yet there are an estimated 660,000 Virginians who don’t have access to broadband. Almost 50% of rural Virginians lack access to high speed internet and 29% don’t have any internet service at all. The Northam Administration has set a goal of 100% connectivity by 2028. Digital learning and connectivity at school and at home enables students to be prepared for tomorrow’s jobs and levels the playing field for students regardless of their affluence level or geographic location.
- Virginia PTA urges the General Assembly to increase funding for the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) and other programs to expedite infrastructure development to provide every Virginia household with access to affordable, high-speed internet (defined as 25mbps download and 3mps upload).
- Virginia PTA supports programs and funding that provide every student participating in distance learning with a device or laptop computer.
- WEBINAR: Virginia PTA Advocacy Afternoon: Virginia’s Digital Divide (8/5/2020)
- VIRIGNIA PTA POSITION: Virginia’s Phased School Reopening
- National PTA Resolution: Distance and Remote Learning for K-12 Students
- POLICY LETTER: July 22, 2020 National PTA on E-Rate Program
- POLICY LETTER: March 23, 2020 National PTA on Emergency Connectivity Fund
- POLICY LETTER: November 2019 Virginia PTA Block Grant to VATI Fund
- Commonwealth Connects Coalition
- Commonwealth Connects Coalition 2020 Report
- Rural Virginia Broadband Fact Sheet
- WiFi Hotspots Map
- State Council of Higher Education 2020 Study on Broadband Access
INFRASTRUCTURE – BUILDING MAINTENANCE
Quality of public school buildings and grounds is a health, educational, and environmental equity issue for families and communities. Facilities are not neutral! Many localities do not have a sufficient tax base to maintain their aging schools. Schools should be recognized and funded as an important component of our nation’s infrastructure. The State of Virginia should provide substantial and sustained investment to support renovation, new construction and debt service costs
BUILDING MAINTAINENCE RESOURCES
- VIRGINIA PTA RESOLUTION: Small Community Schools and Aging School Building Maintenance
- National PTA Resolution: School Facilities
- National PTA Resolution: Improved Infrastructure Around Schools
- POLICY LETTER: July 15, 2020 National PTA on Emergency Building Repairs
- POLICY LETTER: July 8, 2020 National PTA on HR2 Moving Forward Act
- POLICY LETTER: May 7 2020 National PTA on School Infrastructure in COVID-19 Stimulus
INFRASTRUCTURE - CLEAN ENERGY FOR SCHOOLS
Schools should take advantage new solar and electric energy technologies that reduce and stabilize energy costs and fossil fuel pollution thus creating a healthier environment for students while concurrently providing real-world STEAM learning opportunities.
Electric School Buses: Support funding, grants and incentive programs that enable school districts to purchase electric school buses and install charging stations and electric transportation infrastructure.
- RESOLUTION: Electric School Buses
- Clean Transportation for Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air
- Electric school buses are coming to Virginia
- Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley Electric Buses
- Proterra Battery and Charging Stations
Solar Panels for Schools: The number of Virginia schools embracing solar power has tripled over the past two years because solar offers significant cost savings, clean energy and opportunities for hands-on STEAM lessons. Ninety percent of Virginia's schools use a third party Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Virginia PTA supports legislative action to remove net metering limits and lifting the cap on school use of Power Purchase Agreements to ensure equal access to clean energy solutions for all schools in the state.
- RESOLUTION: Solar for Schools
- Advocacy Tool Kit: Solar Schools Campaign (Generation 180)
- Powering a Brighter Future, A Report on Solar Schools in Virginia
- Virginia schools have seen the light and it's solar
- As schools look to solar, existing state law shuts down further development
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-34 and half of all lifetime mental illnesses are identified by age 14. Most students do not receive the mental health services they need due to stigma and lack of access to services and of those who do get help, most do so only in school. The increase in economically disadvantaged students, English Learners, and students needing more intensive special education services has increased the work load for mental health teams.
School Counselor’s role has expanded over the past decade. They collaborate with teachers and other support staff to provide social emotional support, career planning guidance beginning in Kindergarten, and help students develop academic achievement strategies.
School Psychologists often serve several schools. They collaborate with the School Counselor to formulate individualized intervention plans for students who need comprehensive mental health services.
School Social Workers address social issues that affect a child’s development and education and create a vital link between schools, home and community services and resources.
- Virginia PTA urges the General Assembly to provide students with access to ‘Unified Mental Health Teams’ at nationally recommended ratios
- School Counselor: 1:250 (Virginia Funds: 1:455 (ES) - 1:325 (HS))
- School Psychologist: 1:500-700 (Virginia: No Standard)
- School Social Worker: 1:250 (Virginia: No Standard)
- Registered School Nurse: 1 per school (Virginia: 1:600 students)
MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
- VIRGINIA PTA RESOLUTION: Mental Health Return to Learn Safety Net
- National PTA Resolution: Mental Health Programs & Services
- National PTA Resource Webpage
- WEBINAR: Virginia PTA Advocacy Afternoon: Mental Health & Suicide Prevention During COVID-19
- WEBINAR: Virginia PTA Advocacy Afternoon: Trauma Informed Care
NUTRITION & SCHOOL MEALS
Childhood hunger is linked to academic struggles, difficulties focusing and concentrating, mental health disorders, and increased behavioral referrals. School meals help close the nutrition gap that exists for low-income families and plays a critical role in youth dietary behaviors. In Virginia 1.3 million students participate in the National School Lunch Program and 45.59% of our students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches. As a result of inadequate funding, even with federal subsidies for the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch programs, many schools and school districts sell competitive foods to cover the cost of operating a school nutrition program.
o Virginia PTA asks that the Board of Education, in cooperation with the Department of Health, discontinue the practice of allowing competitive foods to be sold during school hours alongside the school meal.
o Virginia PTA supports efforts to ensure access to school meals are extended to families through the COVID-19 pandemic
SCHOOL NUTRITION RESOURCES
- RESOLUTION: Discontinue Sale of Competitive Foods During School Hours
- RESOLUTION: Agriculture Education, School Gardens and Farm to School
- National PTA Toolkit: National PTA School Meal Leader Guide | Healthy School Meals
- National PTA Position: Improving School Meals
- National PTA Position: Nutrition for Children and Families
- Policy Letters regarding USDA Waivers and SNAP eligibility can be found on National PTA and Virginia PTA’s positions page.
School safety is a critical priority for all parents, educators, students, and community members that should not be taken for granted. Virginia PTA supports:
- Physical building improvements to provide secure entry identification and regular school building safety audits
- Communicate to parents at the start of the school year regarding threat assessment protocols, emergency preparation drills, crisis response procedures and re-unification protocols.
- Memorandums of Understanding with local law enforcement agencies, training programs for School Resource Officers and funding for SRO grant programs that support local control.
SCHOOL SAFETY RESOURCES
- RESOLUTION: Limit Frequency of Lockdown Drills
- National PTA Position: Safe & Supportive Schools
- Department of Criminal Justice Services: K-12 Threat Assessment
- Safe and Sound Schools Parent Support
ADVANCE EQUITY & DIVERSITY
Celebrating the diversity of views, experiences, cultural heritages and traditions, skills and abilities, values and preferences that make up our communities is at the core of PTA work. It is important to acknowledge and advance work and legislation that addresses structural inequities that are rooted in our nation’s social, political, economic, and educational systems
- Enhance the SOQs to include one full-time Chief Equity Officer per school division to oversee implementation of culturally responsive practices.
- Support work that increases the diversity of teachers in our schools
- Review history text books and curriculum to eliminate language, behavior or retelling of events that is stereotypical, demeaning, exclusionary, or judgmental and instead embrace cultural contexts with appreciation and celebration of cultures and their contributions to our society.
- Require school staff to participate in regular cultural sensitivity professional development workshops.
VIRGINIA PTA POSITION: Advancing Equity & Diversity
National PTA Position:: Addressing Systemic or Institutional Racism
National PTA’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (en Español)
How to Welcome Diverse Perspectives into Your PTA (en Español)
Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit
Support for Latino Families
Support for Military Families
FAMILY RESOURCES TO SHARE
National PTA Parent Resource:Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast
NPR Talking about Race With Your Young Children
CNN Sesame Street Town Hall on Racism
PBS KIDS for Parents Talking to Young Children About Race and Racism
PBS Media Resources to Talk With Children About Race
National Museum of African American History, Talking About Race
Common Sense Media Using Media to Raise Anti-Racist Kids
SCHOOL QUALITY PROFILE DATA
Good communication is rooted in strong data policies and practices. School Quality profiles are an important tool families can use to understand if their school is meeting the academic and social emotional needs of their students.
Virginia PTA urges the collection and reporting of important data about teacher diversity, mental health programs, and school climate including teacher race and languages spoken other than English Restraint & Seclusion, Threat Assessment and trauma informed care practices.
Virginia PTA supports School Quality Profiles being translated into languages commonly spoken in Virginia.
QUESTIONS: Email Vice President of Advocacy