On January 11, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) and the Virginia Association of School Business Officials (VASBO) held their annual winter conference. In conjunction with the start of the Virginia General Assembly’s 2021 Legislative Session in Richmond, the virtual event offered a multi-session conference exploring budgetary and policy issues that directly affect the budget planning efforts of School Division Superintendents and their School Business Officials.
Event highlights included an analysis of Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed budget by Jim Regimbal of Fiscal Analytics, a legislative panel of General Assembly members discussing potential legislative issues to be considered during the 2021 session, an overview of the impact of COVID-19 unemployment issues on school divisions by Chief Workforce Advisor to the Governor Dr. Megan Healy, and an update on the status of broadband access in Virginia by the Governor’s Chief Broadband Advisor Evan Feinman.
Part of the conference also included a panel discussion on collective bargaining and its financial implications for school divisions. The panel was composed of three individuals broadly representing the types of local stakeholders that would need to be involved in any collective bargaining effort within a school division; Brenda Pike, Executive Director of the Virginia Education Association; Stephen DeVita, Divisions Counsel for Loudoun County Public Schools; and Jeremy Bennett, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Virginia Association of Counties. The three discussed the legislation from the 2020 General Assembly session that beginning May 1, 2021, allows for collective bargaining for local government employees if authorized by a local governing body. The three discussed the issues, steps and considerations that localities need to be aware of before beginning this process, as well as the types of costs for which school divisions should prepare. Given that Virginia is one of only a handful of states with elected and appointed school boards that depend on the local governing body for local funding to schools, the three panelists agreed that any successful effort to engage in collective bargaining in a school division will require extensive communication and coordination between the local governing body, school board, and school board employees.
VACo is grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to participate in this event as well as for the ongoing efforts of VASS and VASBO to guarantee a high-quality public education for Virginia’s students and looks forward to the 2022 conference.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett