Governor McDonnell announces education reform


RICHMOND – Building on his "Opportunity to Learn" education reform initiatives that passed the General Assembly with broad bipartisan support in 2010, Governor Bob McDonnell announced this morning his 2011 K-12 education reform initiatives that will continue to expand educational opportunities for students in every corner of the Commonwealth.

The initiatives include a proposal to implement a groundbreaking performance pay incentive pilot program that will provide competitive grants for school divisions identified as hard-to-staff. The pilot models will award performance pay incentives of up to $5,000 to teachers in these schools. This proposal was part of the budget amendments submitted by the Governor in December.

The Governor also announced legislation which will establish a tax credit for companies donating to nonprofit organizations that provide scholarships to help lower income students attend nonpublic schools.  He was joined at today's press conference by the patrons of the legislation: Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico), Delegate Algie Howell (D-Norfolk) and Delegate Tag Greason (R- Potomac Falls); as well as Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson and Superintendent of Public Instruction Pat Wright.

Speaking about today's announcement, Governor McDonnell remarked, "As we've said before, a child's educational opportunities should be determined by their intellect and work ethic, not their zip code.  We must ensure that students in every corner of the Commonwealth have access to great schools, excellent teachers and the opportunity to learn in an environment that suits them best.  This year we are proposing a plan to provide performance pay incentives of up to $5,000 to teachers in schools identified as hard-to-staff.  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.  This was a reform I first outlined during my campaign for Governor and a plan that we will continue to develop over the next couple years as we see the effectiveness of the pilot programs. Performance pay is a bipartisan idea, and I have applauded the President for his leadership on this issue. It is time that we moved forward on bringing this idea to the Commonwealth, to the benefit of our students, teachers and parents."

Governor McDonnell continued, "It is also important that we continue to find ways to expand opportunities for our students to ensure they are able to compete in today's global economy.  We have proposed legislation that will provide tax credits to businesses who donate to nonprofit organizations that provide scholarships to lower income students for nonpublic education.  This tax credit will open the door to new educational opportunities for more of our young people. By incentivizing business leaders to donate to organizations that provide scholarships, we will help our children gain access to new educational opportunities, with no cost to the state. Education is opportunity, and every student deserves the opportunity of the very best education we can give them."

Dr. Wright commented, "Governor McDonnell's performance pay pilot initiative will provide the means for participating school divisions to reward exemplary teachers in some of the commonwealth's most challenging and hard-to-staff schools.  The revised evaluation guidelines and performance standards developed by the Board of Education's Teacher Evaluation Workgroup will ensure that performance-pay decisions are fair and based on objective criteria."

Delegate Jimmie Massie noted, "Too often students aren't able to reach their full potential because the school they attend is not the best fit and their families can't afford to send them to a nonpublic school.  By providing this tax incentive for employers, we will be able to provide school options for students and their parents, in order for them to get the education they deserve, at no cost to the state.  This legislation will go far to expand the educational opportunities available to students in Virginia."

Delegate Algie Howell added, "No student should be left behind because they can't afford to attend 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."

HB 2314 – Educational Improvement Tax Credit

Patron: Delegate Jimmie Massie

Co-Patrons: Delegate Tag Greason and Delegate Algie Howell

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.

Governor McDonnell's Virginia Performance Pay Incentive (VPPI) Initiative

The purpose of Governor McDonnell's Virginia Performance Pay Incentives (VPPI) 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.

If funding is appropriated, competitive grant proposals will be due to the Department of Education no later than June 15, 2011.

Federal school improvement grant funding in the amount of $3 million is being used to develop training modules and materials that are aligned with recommended uniform performance evaluation standards and to support training of educators in schools in improvement. These funds will also be used to pilot a comprehensive evaluation system and provide performance pay incentives for eligible teachers in the schools that qualify for federal school improvement funding.

Progress in student achievement must account for a significant component of the evaluation.

The budget amendment can be found on page B-64 of Governor McDonnell's amendments to the 2010-2012 biennial budget:

For more information about last year's "Opportunity to Learn" Legislation please visit: