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Newly Vetoed Education Bills

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Vetoes of School Bills

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed several education-related bills this month, and in doing so cited fairness, finances and his steadfast support of Senate Bill 359, which passed in 2013. Following is a list of key bills he vetoed:    

S.B. 19. It would have allowed counties to waive a five-day, full-day pre-kindergarten requirement beginning with the 2016-2017 school year and instead offer pre-kindergarten four days a week, as long as programs provided at least 1,200 minutes of instruction per week and included at least 146 instructional days per year. Pre-kindergarten teachers and aides could have used the fifth day, or part of it, for planning.

In his veto message, Tomblin says one of his goal’s in 2013’s Senate Bill 359 was “to ensure parents had the option to send their child to a five day per week early childhood education program, except in certain limited instances where the … requirement is waived. The changes made in [Senate Bill 19] diminish the educational requirements currently in place. It takes a step backward in meeting the goals of comprehensive education reform I championed.

“I believe offering five day per week programs for early childhood education is critical to meet the development needs of our state’s students,” he wrote.

H.B. 2160, which would have allowed the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind to apply for School Building Authority funding, was also vetoed. Tomblin said the bill was premature.

“The SBA has limited resources for funding construction and improvement projects” throughout West Virginia’s 55 counties, Tomblin wrote. “I recognize the Schools for the Deaf and Blind have substantial improvement needs … However, this bill is problematic because it has the great potential to redirect limited resources away [from the 55 counties].”   

Tomblin also wrote that he does not have a firm understanding of what the WVSDB’s needs are to become financially viable well into the future. He has asked the state Board of Education to “commission an independent, objective assessment of their needs, both facilities and curriculum-related.”

“Outside experts should also analyze the Schools’ continuing viability,” Tomblin wrote. “Without such an assessment, there is potential the state could spend limited resources unwisely.”

State Board of Education President Gayle Manchin said that she and State Superintendent Michael Martirano will meet with Tomblin and others on April 24 to discuss next steps for the WVSDB.  

Tomblin also vetoed H.B. 2674, which would make homeschool students eligible for the PROMISE scholarship even without taking a high school equivalency exam, like the GED in the past or a Task exam. Homeschool students would have still needed to meet the grade-point average and college entrance exam score requirements required of other students who are eligible for the PROMISE.

But Tomblin wrote in his veto message that “eliminating the requirement that home school students show mastery of certain subjects, rather than simply complete a course of study, provides an unfair advantage for those students to receive a PROMISE scholarship. It could also create an incentive for some students to drop out of the public school system if their performance does not meet the required GPA standard to be eligible for the PROMISE scholarship. I believe this type of advantage was not intended when the Legislature created this merit-based program.”   

Tomblin vetoed H.B. 2793, which was meant to ease restrictions on homeschooling students and parents. He cited several reasons behind his veto. First, he opposed its elimination of a requirement of two weeks’ notice to remove a child from public school so homeschooling could begin.

“This is important to ensure there are no underlying issues associated with truancy or other attendance problems,” he wrote.

He also said removing a requirement that a plan of instruction be submitted annually “helps ensure that a home schooled child will receive adequate instruction each year to develop at a rate comparable to his or her peers.”

He also opposed a provision that would allow a parent or guardian to administer a nationally normed standardized achievement test and a second provision that would eliminate the requirement that a parent or legal guardian pay the cost of an academic assessment that takes place outside a public school.

Tomblin said the latter provision would leave state code “unclear as to who or what entity is responsible for paying the costs of the annual assessment.”       

Tomblin also vetoed H.B. 2840.

The bill would have allowed counties to use instruction alternatives to recoup up to four instructional days of time lost to emergency closures. Counties could have submitted, before August 1, a plan for providing instruction to students during emergency closures that includes: lessons on electronic devices provided to students, lessons posted on a board or school website and what has been called “snow-day packets,” with assignments that students could have been allowed to complete within a reasonable period of time.

Tomblin wrote in his veto message that the bill could have allowed students in some counties to “only receive 176 days of in-school instructional time instead of 180 separate days as required under current law. One of my goals in [Senate Bill 359] was to ensure students receive 180 separate days of in-school instruction. This bill takes a step backward in meeting this goal and is directly at odds with my comprehensive education reform bill.

“I encourage county boards of education to continue exploring options to meet the required 180 separate days of in-school instruction to ensure our state’s students receive a thorough and efficient education.”


A session to remember...

This legislative session is over and now we must begin our work for the 2016 session. Many of the bills that failed to pass this session will be on the top of the list for them to pass in the next session – charter schools, Common Core, etc.

Your legislators need to hear from you regarding your views on the actions they took and the bills they were considering. They need to know that you are not happy with their actions and if those actions continue you will work to defeat them in the next election.

Listed below is a brief description of the education-related bills that passed and those that failed.

It also includes a couple of roll call votes for you to see how your legislators voted. The roll calls are from votes in the Senate on the charter school bill (SB 14) and an amendment for a $2,000 teacher pay raise. In the House, the votes are on a very bad version of the alternative certification bill (HB 2005) and a motion to discharge the teacher pay raise bill from committee so the delegates could vote on it.

2016 is just around the corner, and education employees need to remember!

The following education-related bills PASSED during the 2015 regular session:

S.B. 7 (Requiring CPR and care for conscious choking instruction in public schools)
The bill requires at least 30 minutes of instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for high school students before graduation and instruction about how to care for conscious choking. The CPR instruction must be based on an instructional program established by the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross or another program which uses nationally recognized, evidence-based guidelines. Teachers would not be required to teach CPR, but community members such as EMTs, paramedics, police officers, firefighters, nurses and American Heart Association or American Red Cross representatives could offer the instruction.

S.B. 19 (pre-k from five to four days)
This allows counties to waive a five-day, full-day pre-kindergarten requirement beginning with the 2016-2017 school year and instead offer pre-kindergarten four days a week, as long as they provide at least 1,200 minutes of instruction per week and include at least 146 instructional days per year. Pre-kindergarten teachers and aides could use the fifth day, or part of it, for planning purposes.

S.B. 286 (school immunizations)
The bill allows the Commissioner for the Bureau of Public Health to “grant, renew, condition, deny, suspend or revoke” medical exemptions to the compulsory immunization requirements for attending public school.

A request for a medical exemption must be certified by a licensed physician who says that specific precautions should be taken concerning a particular vaccine for a student. The bill also allows the commissioner to employ an immunization officer who is a licensed physician and can consider requests for medical exemptions for public school students.

Both the bill and current state law do not allow any religious or philosophical exemptions to immunization for students attending public schools.

S.B. 361 (prevailing wage)
The prevailing wage bill will become effective on April 13. This anti-worker bill was one of the most hotly debated during the 2015 legislative session, and helped spark two large labor rallies at the state Capitol on Feb. 16 and March 7. The bill initially called for a full repeal of the prevailing wage, but was changed to not allow prevailing wage on any public construction projects (like school building construction) that cost less than $500,000. It also would allow Workforce West Virginia to work with the business schools at WVU and Marshall to set the prevailing wage. The bill no longer allows the state Division of Labor to set the prevailing wage for public work.

S.B. 447 (public, private or home school administrator can issue a diploma)
This bill allows an administrator of a public, private or home school to issue a diploma or other appropriate credential to a student, establishes the legal sufficiency of a diploma or credential and does not allow discrimination of the diplomas by an institution of higher learning or a state agency.

S.B. 529 (pension changes)
The bill changes the normal retirement age for teachers in the Teachers Retirement System from 60 to 62 and also no longer allows new teachers’ accrued annual time and sick leave to be used for retirement service credit, among other changes.

S.B. 529 could negatively affect teacher recruitment.

These negative changes ONLY apply to teachers, public employees and state troopers hired after July 1, 2015. The bill also allows teachers and other public employees to purchase up to five years of military credit.

A key amendment was made Saturday that is a significant change for members who elected to transfer from the Teachers Defined Contribution Retirement System to the traditional Teachers Retirement System back in 2008 and 2009.

The change will allow members who elected to transfer from TDC to TRS to STILL receive full retirement credit in TRS if they have already requested from the Consolidated Public Retirement Board a “signed verification of cost for service credit purchase form” back in 2008 and 2009 and if they are willing to make a payment, with interest added, by July 1, 2015, to give them full retirement credit in TRS.

People eligible for this change MUST notify the Consolidated Public Retirement Board by April 15 if they want to get a new “signed verification of cost for service credit purchase form,” and then they would have to pay the recalculated purchase amount by July 1 in order to receive the full retirement credit in TRS.

H.B. 2005 (alternative certification/TFA)
The compromised bill unfortunately does not prohibit Teach for America (an amendment we had offered in both chambers of the Legislature), but Senate amendments require that teachers in an alternative certification program only be hired in areas of critical need.

The bill also requires that alternative program teachers receive six credit hours or six professional development hours in one or more of the following: early literacy, student assessment, development and learning, curriculum, classroom management, use of computers/technology and special education and diversity.

The bill also does not allow county boards of education to offer their own alternative certification programs without a partner like a RESA or a college or university. 

H.B. 2139 (retired teachers as substitutes)
This bill allows retired teachers to be employed as long-term substitute teachers in areas of critical need beyond 140 days without it affecting their retirement benefits, as long as the teacher’s retirement became effective at least 20 days before their employment term as a long-term substitute in an area of critical need.

H.B. 2160 (WVSDB and SBA)
This allows the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind to apply for and receive School Building Authority money. In recent years there has been questions about whether the WVSDB would be eligible for SBA funding, and the WVSDB have no bonding or levying authority of their own to pay for new facilities and renovations.

H.B. 2377 (instructional time flexibility)
This bill allows the state Board of Education to “approve certain alternatives with respect to instructional time proposed by a county board or school” that are intended to “optimize student learning.” The bill notes that schools “may be best suited to determine the variety of methods through which time during the school day is allocated for teachers to plan individually and collectively to maximize learning time,” and it allows for the use of accrued instructional time.

The bill goes on to note that learning time “must not be assumed to be the time that a student is seated at a desk, but may be achieved through a variety of methods that actively engage students in learning.”

H.B. 2381 (NBCT mentoring increment in lowest performing schools)
The bill will award teachers who teach at one of the lowest- performing schools in the state (bottom 20 percent) and who also agree to mentor their fellow teachers an additional $2,000 if the mentoring teacher holds National Board Certification.

H.B. 2478 (school finance)
This school financing bill, requested by Gov. Tomblin, saw many amendments and revisions made to it as it worked its way through the legislative process.

The bill in its final form made far fewer changes than had been proposed by some lawmakers. It will allow the state to save some money on bus replacement in the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years. The amount allotted to counties for bus replacement in fiscal year 2016 (which begins July 1) will be $15 million, and the amount for fiscal year 2017 will be $18 million.

It keeps language in code allowing “growth county boards of education to designate regular school board levy revenues due to new construction or improvements to a Growth County School Facilities Act Fund.” Growth counties are defined as counties that have significant increases in enrollment due to growth and, because of the increases, do not have adequate facilities to accommodate students, teachers and administrators.

Tomblin had proposed eliminating a county’s ability to designate revenues to the Growth County School Facilities Act Fund.

H.B. 2550 (student unexcused absences)
This bill changes the number of unexcused absences a student can receive during a school year from five to 10 until a complaint against the student’s parent or guardian is sent to a county magistrate.

At five unexcused absences, the student and parent must attend a conference at the school with the principal or another designated school representative in order to discuss the unexcused absences. During the conference, adjustments in the number of unexcused absences can be made.

At three unexcused absences, a notice is sent home to the parent or guardian, letting them know that the conference at the school will become necessary if the student receives five unexcused absences.

H.B. 2598 (504 plan information)
Any teacher of a student for whom a school or county board of education prepares a plan of accommodation known as a 504 plan must “receive specific instruction from the school regarding the contents and requirements of the plan and, if the plan is prepared in writing, the teacher shall receive a copy of the written plan,” as well as any update to it. Teachers must sign an acknowledgement of receipt of each plan and update.

H.B. 2645 (Underwood-Smith loan)
The bill increases the annual amount of assistance available to teachers under the Underwood-Smith teacher loan assistance program from $2,000 annually to $3,000. The loan assistance program is available to teachers who agree to teach in areas of critical need. The original bill, requested by Gov. Tomblin, included alternative certification changes the governor wanted. But lawmakers passed their own bill, H.B. 2005 (alternative certification/Teach for America), and removed the original language from H.B. 2645.

H.B. 2674 (homeschoolers and the PROMISE scholarship)
This bill makes a homeschool student eligible for the PROMISE scholarship even without taking a high school equivalency exam, like the GED in the past or a Task exam. Homeschool students will still need to meet the grade-point average and college entrance exam score requirements required of other students who are eligible for the PROMISE.

H.B. 2702 (redefining pre-k service personnel titles)
This bill redefines service personnel class titles for early childhood classroom assistant teachers and protects aides from RIF or transfer to create a vacancy for a less senior early childhood classroom assistant teacher. The RIF and transfer protection applies to any person “employed as an aide in a kindergarten program who is eligible for full retirement benefits before the first day of the instructional term in the 2020-2021 school year.

H.B. 2793 (lessens requirements on homeschooling students)
This ignited significant debate in the Senate and lessens some requirements on homeschooling students and parents. Senate Democrats fought for some amendments because they worried that without them, vulnerable children whose parents weren’t really focused on their home school education could really suffer. The bill restores language that requires homeschooling parents or guardians to provide a student’s progress on annual assessments to the county superintendent and makes certain that the parent or guardian providing the homeschooling instruction can provide evidence they have a high school diploma or the equivalent.

H.B. 2840 (four days of make-up time)
This will allow county boards of education to submit, before August 1, a plan for providing instruction to students during emergency closures that includes: lessons on electronic devices provided to students, lessons posted on a board or school website and what has been called “snow-day packets,” with assignments that students will be allowed to complete within a reasonable period of time. The bill allows counties to use these alternatives to recoup up to four instructional days of time lost to emergency closures.

The following education-related bills FAILED by Saturday:

SCR 13 (budget bill amendment)
This resolution didn’t make it out of the House Judiciary Committee in time for the full House of Delegates to take it up. SCR 13 would have made West Virginia the latest state to call for Congress to propose a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution and also would’ve been another step to opening the door to a constitutional convention of states.
A balanced budget amendment is a severe austerity measure. It would not allow the U.S. to spend more money in one year than it collects in revenue, which could seriously limit the nation’s ability to fight wars or fund public education, Medicare, Medicaid and children’s programs. Furthermore, delegates at a constitutional convention could even vote to eradicate whole amendments to the U.S. Constitution and take other extreme measures.

S.B. 14 (charter schools)
This industry-driven bill would have taken public money from our traditional public schools. Throughout the session, we consistently argued that the bill as written offered few employee rights, weak oversight and could’ve excluded minority and low-income students because the schools were not required to provide daily transportation. The full House of Delegates never took a vote on the bill.

S.B. 422 and H.B. 2846 (teacher pay)
These two teacher pay raise bills essentially did the same thing. They featured a multiyear approach to raising salaries. The first year, teachers would receive a $500 raise. In the second year, it has a $2,500 raise, in part because the state budget is expected to bounce back in the coming years. The third, fourth and fifth years would also call for a $2,500 raise each year, so that a new teacher who is working in 2019 would be earning $10,500 more than a new teacher earns right now. These raises would have been reflected throughout the salary schedule, so all teachers would have benefitted.

Despite a failed effort on Feb. 28 to vote on H.B. 2846 on the House floor, Republican leadership did not prioritize either of these bills and they were never placed on a committee agenda.

S.B. 537 (accrued time)
This bill would have permitted counties to use accrued instructional time exceeding daily limits toward meeting 180 separate days of instruction. The bill as amended in the House of Delegates would have allowed counties to use the accrued time to make up minutes of instruction lost to snowy weather and other emergency closures. The latest version of S.B. 537 defined accrued instructional time as a daily amount that exceeds 315 minutes for kindergarten through fifth grade, anything that exceeds 330 minutes per day for sixth through eighth grade and any minutes beyond 345 for high school students.

Still, two other bills that passed (H.B. 2377 and H.B. 2840) and recent state Board of Education action could accomplish much of what was included in S.B. 537.

S.B. 541 (campaign finance reform)
S.B. 541 is a controversial bill that ran out of time. It would have increased campaign spending limits from $1,000 to $2,700 that political parties, individual people and PACs would have been allowed to give each candidate, with exceptions.

The Senate made several decent compromises on the bill, but the House Judiciary Committee had removed “dark money” disclosure language that made election spending more transparent. Dark money is funding that makes it into campaigns but there is no disclosure before an election as to whom has contributed it.

H.B. 2717 (ESP transfer limited to outside the school year)
H.B. 2717 died in the last couple days of the session. It would not have permitted the transfer of education support professionals during a window of time stretching from 20 days before the school year began through the end of the school year, with some exceptions.

H.B. 2934 (Common Core)
The Common Core bill failed when the House of Delegates and the Senate could not agree on it Saturday. Senators wanted to study the Common Core standards for two years, while the House of Delegates wanted a full and immediate repeal. Many people had argued that full repeal would hurt high-quality teaching, throw the state’s public education system into disarray and could cost West Virginia millions. The two chambers were far apart on a compromise Saturday night. 

Important Roll Call Votes Cast this Session

Charter schools
When the full Senate voted on the charter schools bill (Com. Sub. for Senate Bill 14) on March 2, they took a straight party-line vote. (The House never voted on the bill.) The CORRECT vote was “nay.” The votes were:

Yeas: 18
Blair, Boley, Boso, Carmichael, Ferns, Gaunch, D. Hall, M. Hall, Karnes, Leonhardt, Maynard, Mullins, Nohe, Sypolt, Takubo, Trump, Walters, Cole.

Nays: 16
Beach, Facemire, Kessler, Kirkendoll, Laird, Miller, Palumbo, Plymale, Prezioso, Romano, Snyder, Stollings, Unger, Williams, Woelfel and Yost.


H.B. 2846 - multiyear teacher pay bill
This is a key teacher pay raise vote that was taken on the House floor Feb. 28. The vote, which was the third and final vote taken that day, was to postpone indefinitely (or kill for the session) a motion to discharge H.B. 2846 from the House Education Committee. H.B. 2846 was a multiyear teacher pay bill that the education committee had no intention of taking up. A motion to discharge the bill from committee would have let the full House vote on the bill. The CORRECT vote on the motion to postpone indefinitely was a “nay” vote.

Yeas: 59
Ambler, Anderson, Arvon, Ashley, Azinger, Blair, Border, Butler, Cadle, Canterbury, Cooper, Cowles, Deem, Duke, Espinosa, A. Evans, D. Evans, Fast, Foster, Frich, Gearheart, Hamilton, Hamrick, Hanshaw, Hill, Householder, Howell, Ihle, Ireland, Kelly, Kessinger, Lane, McCuskey, McGeehan, Miller, Moffatt, E. Nelson, J. Nelson, O’Neal, Overington, Pasdon, Rohrbach, Romine, Rowan, Shott, R. Smith, Sobonya, Stansbury, Statler, Storch, Summers, Upson, Wagner, Walters, Waxman, Weld, Westfall, Zatezalo, Speaker Armstead.

Nays: 36
Bates, Boggs, Byrd, Campbell, Caputo, Eldridge, Faircloth, Ferro, Fleischauer, Fluharty, Folk, Guthrie, Hartman, Hicks, Longstreth, Lynch, Manchin, Marcum, Miley, Moore, Morgan, Moye, Perdue, Perry, Pethtel, L. Phillips, R. Phillips, Pushkin, Rodighiero, Rowe, Skinner, P. Smith, Sponaugle, Trecost, H. White, Williams.

Not Voting: 5
Ellington, Hornbuckle, Kurcaba, Reynolds, B. White.


Amendment to H.B. 2478, a school financing bill, to give teachers a pay raise.
This Senate floor amendment to H.B. 2478 on March 11 would have provided teachers with a $2,000 pay raise. The vote fell along party lines. The CORRECT vote was a “yea” vote.

Yeas: 15
Beach, Facemire, Kessler, Kirkendoll, Laird, Palumbo, Plymale, Prezioso, Romano, Snyder, Stollings, Unger, Williams, Woelfel, Yost.

Nays: 18
Blair, Boley, Boso, Carmichael, Ferns, Gaunch, D. Hall, M. Hall, Karnes, Leonhardt, Maynard, Mullins, Nohe, Sypolt, Takubo, Trump, Walters, Cole.

Absent: 1
Miller.


Alternative certification/Teach for America in the House
A bad version of H.B. 2005 (alternative certification/Teach for America) passed the House of Delegates on Feb. 10 by a 60-35 vote. The CORRECT vote was a “nay” vote.

Yeas: 60
Ambler, Anderson, Arvon, Ashley, Azinger, Blair, Border, Butler, Cadle, Canterbury, Cooper, Cowles, Deem, Duke, Ellington, Espinosa, A. Evans, Faircloth, Fast, Folk, Foster, Hamrick, Hanshaw, Hill, Householder, Howell, Ihle, Ireland, Kelly, Kessinger, Kurcaba, Lane, McCuskey, McGeehan, Miller, Moffatt, E. Nelson, J. Nelson, O’Neal, Overington, Pasdon, Reynolds, Rohrbach, Romine, Rowan, Shott, R. Smith, Sobonya, Stansbury, Statler, Storch, Summers, Upson, Waxman, Weld, Westfall, B. White, Williams, Zatezalo, Speaker Armstead.

Nays: 35
Bates, Boggs, Byrd, Campbell, Caputo, Eldridge, Ferro, Fleischauer, Fluharty, Frich, Gearheart, Guthrie, Hamilton, Hartman, Hicks, Hornbuckle, Longstreth, Manchin, Marcum, Miley, Morgan, Moye, Perdue, Perry, Pethtel, L. Phillips, R. Phillips, Pushkin, Rodighiero, Rowe, Skinner, P. Smith, Sponaugle, Trecost, H. White.

Not Voting: 5
D. Evans, Lynch, Moore, Wagner, Walters.