Update #9 (click for PDF)- March 11, 2014

2014 Legislative Session Concludes

At times during the session our Legislature resembled the U.S. Congress with partisan divides, different agendas and an eye toward reelection. The dominant topics were chemical tanks, abortion, the Future Fund and more tax giveaways, yet some quality education bills were able to pass in spite of the dysfunction.

Passage of the Salary Bill (SB 391)

One of the bills held hostage to partisan politics was our salary bill. During its yo-yo trip through the Legislature it went from a 2% increase to $1,000 across the board to $837 across the board to a three-year, $6,000 increase and finally back to $1,000 across the board.

While it is certainly not enough and will not make us competitive with our surrounding states it is a beginning and recognition that more must be done. The final version of the bill has a $1,000 across-the-board increase for teachers, a 2% increase for service professionals and goal language that sets the stage for competitive pay.

The goal language states the desire for a beginning salary of $43,000 by 2019. Given the fact our current state minimum starting salary is $31,675 that represents a large increase over the next five years. The goal does not just address the starting salary but includes everyone at all steps on the salary scale. If the starting salary is increased by $11,000 then that same $11,000 will be reflected at every step of the scale.

The goal represents the first real discussion of competitive pay since the Caperton administration during the 1990s. We must continue our efforts toward competitive pay to ensure the goal language included in the bill becomes a reality.

Governor Tomblin has indicated he will sign the salary bill.

Planning Periods Bill Passes (SB 477)

The planning period bill also saw a number of amendments and changes before it finally passed. The bill was originally written by the WVEA at the request of Senators Daniel Hall and Greg Tucker, the bill’s sponsors.

In addition to what is currently in statute, the bill also adds the following language: “The use of the entire period of time allotted for a planning period is determined by the teacher. Administrators may not require a teacher to attend meetings, training or any other work-related event during a planning period. This does not prohibit any teacher from participating in school-related activities, teacher evaluation conferences, or conducting school-related meetings, as prescribed, at his or her discretion. ‘Meeting’ for the purpose of this section includes, but is not limited to, IEP meetings, 504 Plan meetings, team meetings, and parent-teacher conferences. A planning period begins once students are physically delivered to another teacher or dismissed from a class.”

The bill must be signed by the governor before it becomes law.

Other Education-Related Bills Include:

SB 209 Allowing Special Needs Students to Participate in Graduation Ceremonies. This bill requires counties to adopt a policy allowing students with disabilities whose individualized education program provides for a modified diploma to participate in the graduation ceremony with his or her classmates if requested in writing by a parent or legal guardian. The county board shall also permit the student to continue receiving special education services after graduation.

SB 252 Allowing Certain Expelled Students to Return to School Through Juvenile Drug Court. This bill allows expelled students who complete a juvenile drug court program to return to school upon the recommendation of the drug court judge. In order to comply with the federal “Gun-Free Schools Act,” a superintendent may not reduce an expulsion period if the expulsion is the result of bringing a firearm to school. The education committee amendment provides for the county superintendent to determine whether to reduce the expulsion period, subject to a recommendation by the Student Assistance Team.

SB 322 Providing State Compensates Officials, Officers and Employees Every Two Weeks with Certain Exceptions. This bill permits the state to issue paychecks every two weeks. Higher education employees are included in this section of the code.

SB 461 Creating Future Fund. The Future Fund would be an account used solely for enhancing education and workforce development, economic development and diversification, infrastructure improvements and tax relief measures for the benefit of the citizens and businesses of the state of West Virginia. The fund shall be comprised of 3% of severance taxes (severance of coal, limestone, sandstone, natural gas and oil) each year. Interest from the fund may be used after 2020 for the designated purposes. Deposits shall not be made in fiscal years with mid-year spending reductions, hiring freezes, mid-year decreases in appropriations or transfers from the Rainy Day Fund due to revenue shortfalls (or if they would be necessitated if the deposits were made).

HB 3156 Granting a Labor Organization a Privilege from being compelled to disclose any Communication or Information the Labor Organization or Agent Received or Acquired in Confidence from an Employee. This bill protects confidential communications made in a representative capacity and relating to a grievance or potential grievance between employees and labor representatives from being disclosed in public employees’ grievance proceedings. This section does not apply to written communications nor communications involving certain death or substantial bodily harm; nor does it protect communications if an employee commits or describes plans to commit a crime, fraud or any act reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another or to rectify or mitigate any such action after it has occurred; an admission that the employee has committed a crime; or if it is necessary to comply with a court order or other law.

HB 4003 Granting Dual Jurisdiction to Counties Where A Student Who Lives in One County and Attends School in Another in Order to Enforce Truancy Policies. The legislation states jurisdiction to enforce compulsory school attendance laws lies in the county in which a student resides and also in the county where the student is enrolled. When the county of residence and enrollment differ, an action to enforce compulsory school attendance may be brought in either county. Magistrate and circuit courts of either county possess concurrent jurisdiction for the trial of offenses arising under this section.

HB 4316 Creating the Student Data Accessibility, Transparency and Accountability Act. The Act requires the state Department of Education to define and make publicly available an index of student data in the statewide system. The Department must create a security plan in compliance with federal and state privacy laws and policies and notify students and parents of privacy rights. Parents must be notified of the opportunity to opt out of sharing student data. A school district shall not report to the state the following individual student data: juvenile delinquency records; criminal records; medical and health records; and student biometric information. Schools shall not collect the following individual student data: political affiliation and beliefs; and religion and religious beliefs; any data collected through affective computing; any data concerning the sexual orientation or beliefs about sexual orientation of the student or any student’s family member; and any data concerning firearm ownership by any member of a student’s family.

HB 4384 Requiring teachers of Students with Exceptional Needs to Either Be Present at an Individualized Educational Program Meeting or to Read and Sign a Copy of the Individualized Education Program Plan. Language added to current statute now states: “Except teachers already required to participate in the development of a student’s individualized education program and sign it as provided in subdivision two of this section, all other teachers in whose class or program a student with exceptional needs is enrolled shall: (1) Participate in the meeting to develop the student’s individualized education program, or read and sign a copy of the student’s individualized education program plan acknowledging that he or she has read and understands it; and (2) Make accommodations and modifications for the student, if needed or identified, to help the student succeed in the class or program. This requirement includes, but is not limited to, teachers of music, musical education, art, driver education and other instruction offered.

HB 4408 Defining Dyslexia and Dyscalculia. The bill adopts commonly accepted definitions for dyslexia and dyscalculia. The bill goes on to require that the state board ensure all students receive the necessary and appropriate screenings, evaluations and early assessments for specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia and dyscalculia; individualized education program regarding specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia or dyscalculia, which is developed or implemented, is consistent with the provisions of (state code); and provide ongoing information and education to parents regarding specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia and dyscalculia, and the services available to students with such disabilities.

HB 4618 Establishing Transformative System of Support for Early Literacy. This bill removes the 3rd and 8th grade program, replacing it with an early literacy program, concentrating on mastery of content by 3rd grade. The state board shall promulgate rules providing for at least the following: Development of a comprehensive, systemic approach to close the reading achievement gap by third grade, which targets school readiness, the attendance gap, summer learning loss and a transformative intervention framework for student and learning supports; ensuring all West Virginia children have access to high quality early learning experiences that focus on healthy learners as part of the school readiness model, resulting in increased populations of children on target for healthy development prior to entering first grade; closing the attendance gap to certify West Virginia children attend school regularly and limit chronic absenteeism in the early grades; assisting county boards in establishing and operating targeted, sustained extended day and extended year reading programs to ensure grade level proficiency and battle summer learning loss; maximizing family engagement to result in the development of a culture of literacy from birth through third grade; supporting high-quality schools and a workforce prepared to address early literacy, identification of interventions, and implementation of a system of intervention for children not reaching grade-level proficiency; ensuring the employment of qualified teachers and service personnel in accordance with the provisions of section thirty-nine, article five of this chapter and section seven-c, article four, chapter eighteen-a of this code to provide instruction to students enrolled in early literacy support programs; creating a formula or grant-based program for the distribution of funds appropriated specifically for the purposes of this section or otherwise available for the support of a targeted, comprehensive system of support for early literacy; providing support for transportation and healthy foods for students required to attend after-school and extended-year early literacy instructional support programs and supervision at the school that accommodates the typical work schedules of parents; and receiving from county boards any applications and annual reports required by rule of the state board.

HB 4619 Authorizes Innovation School Districts. This bill allows counties to apply for Innovation Zone status. The bill states all county boards are eligible to apply for designation as an innovation school district. One county from each of the population categories: sparse density county; low density county; medium density county; and high density county may be awarded IZ status. The state board shall implement an application process and use the same approval committee for the current IZ awards.

The designation of a school system as an innovation school district authorizes the county board to submit requests to the state board for exceptions to statutes, policies, rules and interpretations required to permit implementation of the innovative strategies contemplated in its innovation school district plan. The designation of a school system as an innovation school district shall be for a period of five years. The state board, upon request of the county board, may extend the designation for an additional two years if the school system has outstanding items in its school system collaborative innovation zone plan that it still wants to pursue and only for the purpose of pursuing those outstanding items. If waivers of current statute, policy or law are required, the same provisions apply for a vote of impacted employees.

Failing to Pass

WVEA tracked and reported on a number of bills throughout the session that did not pass this legislative session. Those bills include:

SB 409 – Governor’s Education Reform Bill. Included in the last version of the bill was the option for teachers with a valid West Virginia teaching certificate to “obtain certification to teach in an additional area of certification upon submission of a passing score on the appropriate content area test” (Praxis) regardless of whether additional course work was taken in that area. This bill also contained language allowing more seamless transfer of credits in higher education and placed a limit of 5 years for emergency takeover of county school systems by the state Department of Education. It also required faculty senates to use a matrix or chart when using the hiring criteria.

HB 2966 would have provided employment privacy protection by prohibiting employers and potential employers from asking for passwords to electronic, online accounts.

HB 4399 would have restricted the times special elections (levies) could be held.

HB 4501 and SB 539 would have allowed security guards in schools to carry firearms.

HB 4555 would have provided leave for school employees serving in county and municipal elections.

HB 4703 began as the “Cupcake Bill,” and then was retitled the School Celebrations, Recognitions, Programs and Events bill before it saw its demise. The bill would have originally allowed cupcakes and cookies in schools a few times a year before it was amended to provide for a system of faculty senate-allowed events, concentrating on fun activities and education for parents in addition to allowing approved foods at activities.

Resolutions were passed to conduct studies on the WVSAC, college attainment, WV School Building Authority waiving matching funds from the WV Schools for the Deaf and Blind, bullying and multi-county RESA employees.

In addition, SB 455 (Move to Improve) and SB 628 were merged into a study resolution in the House Education Committee to look at Healthy Lifestyles. SB 381 requiring CPR was also turned into a study resolution.

 




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