Legislative Update

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February 24, 2017


School Calendar Bill Passes the Senate

One encouraging action this week was the passage of Committee Substitute for S.B. 242 (school calendar) in the Senate on Wednesday. The bill has several positive features but WVEA believes it may need a couple tweaks.

The bill passed the full Senate Wednesday on a 33-0 vote. 

It would allow schools to use accrued minutes toward instructional days or minutes that were lost because of bad weather or emergencies. It also allows for an increase in the number of faculty senate meetings (from four to six) and gives teachers discretion about how best to use a designated day for the opening of school and a second designated day for closing school. 

S.B. 242 removes the word "separate" days of instruction so that county school systems would no longer be compelled to require 180 distinct school days in the calendar. The bill would, however, require that any reimagining instructional days the state board has awarded to a county would have to be exhausted before the county is allowed to use accrued minutes to cover lost instructional days.  The bill also strongly encourages the use of state-board awarded reimagining instructional days to achieve the 180-day requirement.

Anti-employee Higher Education Bill Begins Movement

The House Education Committee advanced H.B. 2542 (higher education personnel), which would eliminate seniority and bumping rights for higher education classified staff. WVU, Marshall and other four-year colleges (the “other” colleges would need HEPC approval) would also be allowed to set their own classification and compensation systems. WVU officials – who took the lead on writing the bill -- and other college officials say they are stretched thin financially and they need the leeway to hire and fire people based on job performance and productivity over seniority.  

WVEA sees this bill as a move to take away employee rights, specifically seniority. Using a budget crisis as a stated reason for stripping employee rights is wrong. It’s not going to save the colleges and universities money, and it was not sent to the House Finance Committee (which takes up budget matters) for its review. Colleges and universities can already remove classified employees for poor performance.

In standing together with higher education classified staff, please call delegates to express your opposition to the bill.

Governor’s Education Bill Introduced

Gov. Jim Justice's education bill, which was introduced on Thursday, proposes some positive changes to public education for our teachers but also reflects the tough financial situation the state is in.

Senate Bill 420 includes an $808 raise for classroom teachers across the board, as well as calendar changes and positive language regarding planning periods. Largely because of fiscal constraints, the bill also eliminates major education support and oversight systems that have been in place for decades – the RESAs and the Office of Education Performance Audits.

Here are some other features of the bill:

  • Language in S.B. 420 says educators will receive uninterrupted time for planning periods each week, and that administrators may not require a teacher to use planning period time "to complete duties beyond instructional planning." Two of the named duties that administrators cannot require teachers to fulfill during planning periods are "administrative tasks" and "meetings."
  • The A-F school grading system will end by amending school accreditation, accountability and school performance to include multiple measures. (The state board will be responsible for defining the multiple measures.) 
  • In place of the RESAs, counties will be urged to collaborate on issues like purchasing, Medicaid billing, technology programs, operation of programs for special needs students and professional development.
  • A “County Superintendents' Advisory Council” would be established to promote collaboration among county school districts and provide feedback to the state board and state superintendent.
  • With the elimination of the OEPA, the state will move to “encourage local responsibility in school accountability,” a bill summary states. Cyclical review and the audit process for schools and school systems would be eliminated.       

WVEA will keep you updated on the progress of S.B. 420 and, if one is introduced, its companion bill in the House of Delegates. 

Other notes from the week:

  • The Senate Education Committee also on Thursday advanced a summative assessments bill (Committee Substitute for S.B. 18) that would eliminate the Smarter Balanced or the PARCC assessments and would instead require new summative assessments for college-readiness (in the 11th grade) and career-readiness.
    The introduced version of the bill named the ACT and ACT Aspire as tests that would be used in West Virginia, but the language naming the specific tests has been removed. The newly constituted state Board of Education is already heading in this new direction on assessments.
  • Gov. Justice's chief of staff, Nick Casey, noted Thursday that both the state's budget situation and the lack of any additional money for PEIA are "awful." Let senators, delegates and the governor's office know that PEIA needs a long-term funding solution. We can't continue with year after year of benefit cuts to the plan.
  • A House Education "K-12 subcommittee" appears to be interested in reviewing several House bills that are related to assessments and education standards. We’ll let you know which bills the subcommittee considers.
  • For at least the third year running a bill to make the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind eligible for School Building Authority funding (H.B. 2123) has reached the House floor. Former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a similar bill last year.

Keep informed throughout the legislative session via the WVEA website and Facebook and Instagram (handle - wveatoday)

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