Virginia's VLDS and the 2016 General Assembly

Tod Massa
April 5, 2016

The 2016 session of the Virginia General Assembly, is all but a memory, save for the upcoming reconvened session when the legislature takes action on the Governor’s vetoes. The session was an exciting one for VLDS partners as the Governor had bills establishing VLDS in both chambers and an introduced budget of $2.5 million over the biennium for VLDS.

Both SB636 and HB1036 would have given SCHEV [State Council of Higher Education for Virginia] a new duty to its existing list:

"21. Develop and maintain a virtual, comprehensive longitudinal data system for the purposes of providing authorized researchers and policy makers, including the Governor, General Assembly, and agency policy boards access to educational, health, social service, and employment outcome data; improving the efficacy of state services; and aiding decision making. The Director shall establish an advisory committee consisting of the heads of participating agencies or their designees to provide related policy guidance. The Council shall provide an annual report concerning the data system to the Governor the General Assembly, and participating agency policy boards."

The bill’s intent was to do little more than authorize the role of VLDS and place it under SCHEV for administration because of the breadth of SCHEV’s duties across a spectrum of citizen advancement. While the Senate bill made it through with little opposition, it ultimately died in the House Education committee. The House bill was tabled early on in House Appropriations Higher Education subcommittee. Throughout this process, Elizabeth Creamer, Advisor Workforce Development worked as a tireless advocate on behalf of VLDS. Together we visited most every member of the House Education committee and testified in subcommittee and committee meetings in both chambers. If nothing else, we built a lot of awareness and goodwill for next year. We will be back.

The budget news was less disappointing. In crafting the Governor’s budget, a number of items were placed in SCHEV’s budget as line items. House Appropriations committee members struck all of those items, leaving us in doubt of the future during most of the session. Fortunately, when the conferees released the details of their negotiations, we learned that SCHEV had been provided VLDS funding to the amount of $357,500 per year, or $715,000 over the biennium. While a far cry from the generous amount designated by Governor McAuliffe, we now have funds to keep the lights on and move forward with an aggressive agenda to create data and reports of value to the Commonwealth. This is really a great opportunity for the VLDS partnership to make an imprint on state policy.

"L. Out of this appropriation, $357,500 each year from the general fund is designated to support research and analysis and the administration of a multi-agency longitudinal data system to improve consumer information and policy recommendations."

At the end of January, I wrote (on the SCHEV Research blog) that this effort “is not just about the data. VLDS is about reaching to ensure excellence for Virginians. Through thoughtful and well-considered analysis, we can improve our services to Virginians. Through a more complete knowledge of service outcomes tied with a greater understanding of how education and social services support a working Virginia, we can create greater excellence in the lives of Virginians.” VLDS is also about a truly talented team of professionals working together to serve Virginia in variety of ways, most especially through modeling collaborative behavior across the enterprise. It is a pleasure to work with this partnership.

This content was copied, with the author's permission, from the VLDS blog. You can read the post here. To learn more about Virginia, please visit Virginia’s state page.

Tod Massa is the Director of Policy Research and Data Warehousing at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.