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March 24, 2017

 

Governor's education bill amended and moves through committee

An amended version of Gov. Jim Justice’s education bill (HB 2711) advanced in the House Education Committee late Wednesday night. 

As it stood early Friday, the bill does increase classroom teacher salaries by $808, an average of 2 percent, and would increase education support professionals’ pay by $80 per month worked.

The bill also:

  • Allows an “equivalent” to separate instructional days, which would be 315 minutes for elementary school, 330 for middle school and 345 for high school. 
  • Makes planning period changes (see below)
  • Transitions away from RESAs but forms “educational services cooperatives” that would allow counties around the state to share services such as Medicaid billing, purchasing, operation of special education programs, professional development and technology.
  • Eliminates the Office of Education Performance Audits and shifts that work back to  the Department of Education

We have concerns about the bill. Language was added to the planning period section that says: “Districts and schools should develop and execute a planning period strategy that best meets their individual needs.” For obvious reasons this could pose problems, and language about teacher involvement in developing those strategies was not added.

The calendar language also needs some adjustments. While counties could use extra minutes they have built into days to cover up to five days lost due to snow or other closures, the language needs to be made clearer.

There were some legitimate worries expressed during a late-night meeting Wednesday about what happens when RESAs go away and counties don’t receive needed funding to take up the slack. The “educational services cooperatives” do give counties freedom to work together, but how effective will they be without proper funding?      

We will keep you posted on the progress of HB 2711 as it moves in the Legislature. 

Senate Bill 239 begins movement in House

WVEA urges you to contact members of the House of Delegates and tell them you oppose SB 239, an anti-worker, anti-union bill intended to silence workers and harm the ability of workers to unite.

It is a punitive bill aimed at unions and others who share different viewpoints from the Republican majority in the Legislature.

SB 239 is an attempt to weaken organizations and therefore weaken employees’ ability to influence bad decisions at the local board, state board, Legislature, etc.

SB 239 removes the ability of an employee to choose which deductions to have taken from their pay without annually completing burdensome paperwork.

Delegates you call may tell you the bill only affects the collection of PAC money (which is the misleading title of the bill), but that is untrue. The bill would burden employees and employers with annual burdensome paperwork for a deduction that the employee freely chooses to make.

Again, until further notice, please continue to call members of the House of Delegates to express your strong opposition to SB 239.

Troubling bills continue to advance

In addition to SB 239, we have seen a slew of bad bills being advanced, placed on committee agendas and passed this week.

On Thursday night, Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Upshur, had his “school choice” subcommittee meet after the Senate Education Committee meeting. The full committee reconvened and then reported and advanced an awful bill, SB 273 (education savings accounts/school vouchers), without any real discussion or prior notice that it would be placed on an agenda. The bill moves on to the Senate Finance Committee.

The Senate also accepted an amendment to SB 18 (statewide summative assessment) on Thursday that seeks to the ability of the state Board of Education to establish education standards. The amendment by first-term Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, seems to attempt to require that the state board revise its existing standards, then replace the Smarter Balanced with a new test, and then have the Legislature review and sign off on the new education standards.

SB 401 (seniority stripped from RIFs, transfers, vacancies) advanced out of the Senate Education Committee on a 7-6 vote Thursday and would remove seniority and allow the subjective word "qualifications" to be used to determine RIFs, transfers, reassignments and to fill vacancies. This opens the door for favoritism, nepotism and discrimination in the hiring process. The bill did not even have the support of Senate Education Committee Chairman Kenny Mann, R-Monroe, who spoke against it.

The House of Delegates advanced the bill revoking the 80/20 PEIA premium mandate, (HB 2871), to second reading but then pulled it and placed it on the inactive House calendar late this week. Stay tuned for more updates on the bill.

We are also closely monitoring and asking members to oppose HB 2817 (Teachers Retirement System liability refinancing), which could cost the state a significant amount of money over the life of the refinancing. It was on Thursday’s House Finance Committee agenda but then pulled.

Also on Thursday, the Republicans pushed an amended SB 609 (school support) in the Senate Education Committee, which would end up “incentivizing” counties to set their maximum levy rates because it would be understood that state aid to schools would be reduced across the board.

Without those higher levy rates, and for example, counties like Monongalia could lose $5 million in funding, Cabell could lose more than $3 million and a smaller county, Summers, could lose more than $400,000.

Other bills we are following:

  • H.B. 2561 (public school support) is pending in the House Finance Committee and may be considered Friday.
     
  • H.B. 3088, which would eliminate the current teacher-pupil ratio limits in sixth grade, may be taken up Friday in the House Education Committee.
     
  • S.B. 242 (school calendar) is pending in the House Education Committee, but may not be considered because of HB 2711.
     
  • S.B. 524 (standards bill) is pending in the House Education Committee.
     
  • H.B. 2815 (Governor’s higher education bill) is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.

Keep informed throughout the legislative session via the WVEA website, Facebook (Dedicated Teahcers) and Instagram (wveatoday).

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