McDonnell K-12 agenda pushes access

Educational opportunity for all is a focal point for Gov. Bob McDonnell in his 2011 K-12 legislative agenda.

“A child’s educational opportunities should be determined by their intellect and work ethic, not their zip code,” McDonnell said today in rolling out his Opportunity to Learn package, which pivots on a proposal to implement a pilot program aimed at staffing in hard-to-staff school divisions. The program would provide pay incentives of up to $5,000 to teachers in school districts that have a difficult time filling positions.

“Our hope is that these grants will attract good teachers to schools that, for example, may be on the verge of losing their accreditation, have trouble with attendance, or have a large number of limited English proficient students – with a goal that these teachers will help to turn the performance at these schools around and help their students reach higher achievement marks,” McDonnell said.

Another key provision of the Opportunity to Learn program is the establishment of a tax credit for companies donating to nonprofits that provide scholarships for lower-income students attending private schools.

Democratic State Del. Algie Howell is working with the governor on that part of the McDonnell agenda. Howell said today that it’s important that “no student should be left behind because they can’t afford a great school.”

“The scholarships that nonprofit organizations provide for lower income students are essential to ensuring that every child has access to a quality education. By incentivizing corporations to give to these organizations, we will be able to better provide a good education to disadvantaged and at-risk students,” Howell said.

More details of the governor’s proposals

HB 2314 – Educational Improvement Tax Credit

Establishes a tax credit beginning in taxable year 2012 for companies donating cash to nonprofit organizations providing scholarships to students who would have been eligible for the free and reduced lunch program under federal law, in order for them to attend nonpublic elementary or secondary schools. Nonprofit organizations to which donations are made would be required to distribute at least 90 percent of their annual receipts for such scholarships. The tax credit would equal 70 percent of the donation made by the corporation and could be carried forward or back for 15 years.

The Department of Taxation would be responsible for issuing the tax credits. The Department would be allowed to issue up to $25 million in tax credits in each fiscal year of the Commonwealth.

Virginia Performance Pay Incentive Initiative

The purpose of the Virginia Performance Pay Incentives Initiative is to establish and pilot performance pay initiates that will recognize and reward highly qualified and effective teachers who have improved student achievement in hard-to-staff schools.

The VPPI Initiative will provide $3 million from the general fund to award competitive grants in fiscal year 2011-2012 for school divisions in each of the eight superintendents’ regions to pilot performance pay models in identified hard-to-staff schools. The pilot schools will implement a comprehensive evaluation system for making decisions about teacher performance that is aligned to standards and indicators developed by a stakeholder workgroup convened by the Virginia Department of Education in 2010-2011.

Teachers who work in eligible hard-to-staff public schools, licensed to teach in Virginia and endorsed in the subject/grade level of assignment, and meet eligibility criteria established by the school division would be eligible to receive VPPI performance pay incentive payments. Schools identified as hard-to-staff schools would be eligible to be considered for funding to support pilot models for awarding performance pay for the 2011-12 school year. There are approximately 190 hard-to-staff schools across Virginia.

For purposes of this initiative, a hard-to-staff school in a Virginia school division has been identified as one that meets at least four of the following eight criteria:

Accredited with warning;

Average daily attendance rate is two percentage points below the statewide average;

Percent of special education students exceeds 150 percent of the statewide average;

Percent of limited English proficient (LEP) students exceeds 150 percent of the statewide average;

Percent of teachers with provisional licenses exceeds 150 percent of the statewide average;

Percent of special education teachers with provisional special education licenses exceeds 150 percent of the statewide average;

Percent of inexperienced teachers (0 years of teaching experience) hired to total teachers exceeds 150 percent of the statewide average; and

School has one or more inexperienced teachers (0 years of teaching experience) in a critical shortage area.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.


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