Update #8 (click for PDF)- February 28, 2014
SB 391- Salary Bill for Education Employees
This week the Senate passed a salary increase for teachers and service professionals. SB 391 began as a governor’s initiative with a 2% pay raise. The bill was changed in the Senate Education Committee by Chairman Bob Plymale to include a $1,000 pay increase for all teachers and 2% for service professionals.
Language was also added to codify a legislative intent to increase the state minimum salary for beginning teachers to at least $43,000 by fiscal year 2019.
The bill was amended in Senate Finance, and reverted back to the 2% pay raise for teachers and service professionals. The committee passed the bill and recommended it to the full Senate. This was done to keep the bill within the budget amount originally proposed by Governor Tomblin.
On Wednesday, February 26, the Senate agreed to suspend the constitutional rules and amend the bill again. This time the full Senate amended to an $837 across-the-board pay increase for teachers. This amount is the same overall cost as the 2%. The 2% pay raise remains for service personnel in addition to the language outlining the goals of the Legislature to increase teachers’ salaries to a competitive level by 2019. The bill will be sent to the House for consideration.
Contact your Delegates and encourage them to find the revenue to increase the $837 back to $1,000 and to support the pay raise bill, including the legislative intent to make our salaries more competitive. Educator compensation must be a priority!
West Virginia ranks 48th in pay nationally and ranks below all neighboring states’ average pay for teachers.
CONTACT YOUR DELEGATES on SB 391:
1. Urge them to restore the raise to $1,000 across the board.
2. Ask your delegate to support the legislative goal of competitive pay by 2019.
3. Ask for their support for passing the bill.
Budget Woes for the State are Self-Inflicted
Since 2006, business tax cuts have removed $236 million from revenues and the repeal of the grocery tax has removed another $162 million. That is nearly $400 million removed from the state’s budget with no mechanism to replace them. These cuts are the reason for the 2015 budget deficit. The governor is proposing to take money from the Rainy Day Fund in addition to several statutory changes. He also wants to fund alterations and remove some unused tax credits. However, a few of those bills stalled in committee. A balanced budget is going to be more difficult than ever before since Senators and Delegates show reluctance to pass any new taxes this year. Those same budget deficits are impacting the size of the proposed raises for education employees.
At this point in the session the tobacco tax appears dead, even though polling shows great support for the concept. Addi¬tionally, a tobacco tax prevents kids from smoking and motivates adults to quit. The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy recommends a few things to balance the budget in addition to increasing the tobacco tax. Expanding sales taxes to personal services such as haircuts and health clubs could bring in $25 million. Increasing the income tax rates on the wealthiest 1%, who currently pay 6.3% of their income in state taxes as opposed to the 8.7% or 8.9% total state tax that middle class workers pay.
Other Suggestions: Scale back the $2,000 personal income tax exemption for higher earners as the federal government does. Phasing it out for those earning between $150,000 - $200,000 and eliminating it for those earning above $200,000 would generate $7.5 million dollars.
Or reduce the thin-seam coal tax credit. The current coal severance tax rate is five percent. Thin-seam coal, however, has a reduced rate of 2 and 1 percent. This tax preference is expected to reduce revenue by $77 million in FY 2015, up from just $20 million in 2005.
There are ways to reduce the budget gap and increase revenue without taxing the elderly, poor or middle class. Our state has chosen to reduce revenue by giving away tax credits and now we find ourselves without money to fix roads, increase salaries to competitive levels and invest in infrastructure. We must convince our elected officials to change the current trend if our state and our students are to move forward.
HB 4384 – Student IEPs
One of the first public education bills expected to pass both the House and Senate pertains to IEPs. This bill passed the House and is currently being considered in the Senate. The bill would require teachers in general education courses who teach special needs students to attend or read and sign an IEP. The bill 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 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.”
March 3-8 is the hectic final week of the session. WVEA continues to monitor bills closely on topics such as alternative certification, student data, healthy kids and lifestyles, and school parties and snacks. When final versions are available they will be posted online.
Wednesday, February 26, marked crossover day. Bills must pass out of the body of origin on this day to remain viable. Budget bills and resolutions may pass after this date. However, a bill not moving out of committee or out of the Senate or House is considered dead. WVEA will keep a close eye on education bills and other bills that impact educational employees. Watch Lobbyline each day for up-to-date reports of bills and committee meetings. WVEA will also send a final wrap-up explaining the details of bills that pass.