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WVEA Legislative Agenda 2017-2018

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Salary and Benefits

WVEA will pursue a salary increase to maintain progress toward paying West Virginia school employees at a competitive level with contiguous states in their particular employment category. Salary increases should be funded on a multiple year basis. WVEA supports legislation that encourages the recruitment and retention of certified teachers and ESP. In addition, WVEA advocates for decreasing the local share allocation and those funds be dedicated to salaries. WVEA believes there needs to be proper and adequate funding of the Public Employees Insurance Agency. WVEA supports legislation and programs to control prescription drug and health care costs and encourages the PEIA Finance Board to seek out cost saving health care measures for active and retired participants. WVEA believes that PEIA participants, both active and retired, should have premiums determined by a fixed percentage of the active employee’s education-related income and a fixed percentage of the retiree’s education-related retirement pension. WVEA will actively seek an increase in or elimination of the 3% cap imposed on retiree premiums and/or benefits by the PEIA Finance Board. WVEA will also pursue an increase in the state income tax exemption for retired school employees to at least the first $20,000 in teacher retirement benefits.

Legislative Concerns

WVEA supports the following:

1. WVEA believes there needs to be proper and adequate funding of the retirement system to guarantee optimum benefits for current and future retirees. These benefits should include a COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) that would allow retirees to maintain a standard of living at least commensurate with the retiree’s pre-retirement living standard. WVEA supports the funding mechanism currently in place that pays all liabilities by 2034 and opposes attempts to refinance that funding mechanism. WVEA will pursue legislation that increases the monthly minimum pension for retirees with more than twenty years of service to at least an amount above the federal poverty level. WVEA also supports the increase of the current twenty thousand dollars homestead exemption to forty thousand dollars.

2. WVEA believes that it is essential to have school facilities that are free from violence, bullying, harassment, environmental, health and indoor air quality problems. Therefore, WVEA supports initiatives that promote the health and safety of students and employees. Such efforts may include but not be limited to:

a. Initiatives that will discourage students from using tobacco products.

b. Initiatives to limit occupancy of school vehicles to the number of passengers who may be safely seated.

c. Creation of separate alternative schools (at all education levels) to conduct classes during the regular school day for students who, because of their violent or severely disruptive behavior, are unable to succeed in the regular school setting.

d. Nutritious breakfast and lunch items that exclude irradiated food ingredients, trans fat, and food additives linked to health or developmental risk.

e. Support a fulltime professional school counselor in each school prek-12.

f. We also believe therapeutic learning centers, classrooms, and programs should be put in place to address students with severe emotional or behavioral needs.
 

3. WVEA supports a school aid formula that ensures a high quality educational opportunity for every West Virginia student using a formula that accurately reflects the ratio of students to regular classroom teachers by establishing minimum net enrollment used for sparse student enrollment counties and by providing supplemental allowance for extraordinarily increased enrollments. WVEA believes a fair, equitable and progressive tax system should be instituted in the state in order to provide adequate funding for education. The WVEA will seek the creation of a Public Education Trust Fund that is funded through an assessment on natural resources extraction industries and earmarked for public education. WVEA supports an independent government Fiscal Office to provide accurate non-partisan fiscal notes regarding issues before the legislature. WVEA opposes vouchers and other means of using public resources to promote private or home schools. WVEA opposes the creation of public or private charter schools. WVEA actively promotes the revision and updating of the school aid formula for low incident special needs. WVEA also opposes cuts to the school aid formula.

4. WVEA supports highly skilled professionals in the classroom. As such we take the following positions:

a. WVEA supports the empowerment of the West Virginia Education Professional Standards Board to establish criteria for teacher preparation programs and the issuance, renewal and revocation of certificates and licenses to teach.

b. WVEA will advocate against boards of education from using paraprofessionals in the place of certified teachers in instructional programs.

c. WVEA supports giving priority in the hiring of substitute teachers to those who hold teaching certification whenever possible, and advocates against hiring substitutes who do not hold a four-year degree and receive significant training in teaching techniques.

d. WVEA believes every classroom must have a fully qualified, appropriately certified teacher and the use of unqualified individuals is in opposition to the best interests of students and quality education in our state.

e. WVEA advocates that the hiring rubric be provided to an interviewee upon request for comparison of points awarded to ensure the fairness of the hiring process.

 
5. Class size limits in grades pre-K through five of no more than eighteen students and limits of no more than twenty-five students in grades six through twelve and the school-aid formula provide for the necessary funding. Performance based ensemble classes should be excluded from class size limits. WVEA will oppose any attempt by the Legislature to increase the class size limits in pre-kindergarten through the sixth grade.

6. Collective bargaining for all education employees, including all higher education employees.

7. Protection of public and higher education employees against the subcontracting of services to replace their positions and to ensure fair and adequate compensation of all employees for performing extra-curricular assignments or additional duties beyond their normal job description. (Including fair and consistent statewide pay for supplemental bus runs, as well as pay for wait time on supplemental runs during the regular school day).

8. The creation of more equitable classifications for school service personnel by including provisions for the recognition of experience.

9. A constitutional amendment that allows higher education employees and employees of the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind the right to serve in public office.

10. Legislation affecting female employees who were required to take maternity leave and therefore, lost time toward retirement, should be granted retirement credit for this time.

11. Require Medicaid reimbursement to be applied to the program that generates the service and compensate the individuals who complete the paperwork at a rate ratio in sync with their daily rate of pay.

12. The Student/Parent Accountability Act:

a. If a student knowingly and falsely accuses a school employee of misconduct that results in the employee being subject to discipline, the student shall be guilty of false swearing. Any parent who encourages his or her child to make false accusations against a teacher, and there is evidence of such, that parent shall also be guilty of false swearing.

b. If a student or parent intentionally harasses a school employee, the school employee should be able to obtain an enforceable restraining order and criminal penalties against the student and/or parent.

c. Truancy laws should be strengthened so they can be enforced and students and parents are held accountable for unexcused absences.
 

13. School calendar improvements:

a. Changes to the calendar, relating to year round school, etc., that are both educationally sound and provide flexibility for employees.

b. Methods to allow county board of education employees to vote on proposed calendars and calendar changes which change the instructional and employment terms.

c. Return to Faculty Senate days for every month of the school year with half of each day dedicated to curricular planning.
 

14. Mandate that all higher education institutions provide tenure and benefits to all employees in lecture positions, including adjunct professors, based upon a definition of full time and half time employment.

15. Allow residents who are teachers, but who are not US citizens, to renew their certification on the same schedule as other teachers.

16. Freedom for public and higher education employees so that they are free to express reasoned professional opinions and conduct and publish credible research without fear of dismissal or other forms of reprisal.

17. Planning periods for all full-time classroom teachers should consist of no less than 60 continuous minutes of uninterrupted and duty-free time to be used at the discretion of the individual teacher.

18. When higher ed. classified employees are allowed or required to fill in for an employee with a higher pay grade, he/she will receive the higher pay from the first day of the assignment.

19. To allow counties to allocate funds in addition to excess levy funds for local bonuses or benefits.

20. Amend WV Code §18A-4-7a, pertaining to seniority and transfer in elementary schools, to allow a displaced teacher to bump the least senior teacher in his or her area of certification in the school where he or she is employed.

21. Amend WV Code §18A-7A-23 for death benefits to be available after 10 years of service with no age requirement, instead of 25 years of service at age 50 as in the present statute.

22. Allow a surviving spouse of a retiree to use the remainder of the PEIA premiums purchased by the retiree with accumulated sick leave after the retiree’s death.
 
23. Require insurance coverage for surviving spouse/family of deceased current employees to be extended for a period of ninety days without cost to family.

24. Accrue/access sick leave and holiday pay from day one for long-term substitutes who have completed working 20 days in any position. Remove the requirement that the days a substitute teacher must work to move to a higher pay status be consecutive. Require that all long term substitute teaching positions reasonably expected to last for 90 days or more be posted and filled pursuant to the first set of criteria in WV Code §18A-4-7a.
 
25. Require that Department of Education employees receive continuing contract rights and due process in termination instead of “at will” employment.

26. Provide that school employees be exempt from criminal prosecution or child abuse laws for any incident arising from instruction, restraint or discipline of a student unless it is proven that the teacher acted with malice or intent to injure the student.

27. That “reduction in force” for higher education classified staff be redefined to include reduction in the number of days or hours an employee works.

28. Require that a transportation assistant (aide) be placed on all buses transporting students who are identified with a behavior disorder or have been in a juvenile or criminal proceeding involving an act that would be a crime of violence if committed by an adult.

29. Require the adoption and implementation of a statewide uniform system of evaluation for all service personnel. WVEA also believes the title for educational support professional classifications should be changed to reflect national trends and to more accurately reflect the work that personnel are performing. (Aide to Instructional Assistant, Secretary to Administrative Assistant, etc.) No service personnel shall be required to work more than 8 hours in a single workday without the agreement of the affected employee. WVEA believes service personnel should not be required to perform tasks outside their statutory job classification requirements.

30. WVEA shall support legislation affording classroom teachers the ability to determine the content of their lesson plans.

31. Any teacher, principal, supervisor, service personnel or other person employed by a board of education who is subpoenaed to appear as a witness in any court of law (or judicial proceeding) may make such appearance without any loss of pay (compensated leave time, and/or fear of dismissal or other forms of reprisal) . The board shall pay to such employee the difference between the witness fee, exclusive of travel allowances, payable for such appearance by the court and the amount of salary due to the person for the time such employee is absent from his or her employment by reason of answering such subpoena.

32. A counselor/student ratio of 1:250 and a nurse/student ratio of 1:750 should be implemented.

33. WVEA will engage in active dialogue and support legislation for additional use of developmentally appropriate alternative assessment for special education and English Language Learner students.

34. The right of school employees to be able to buy up to five years of out-of-state educational retirement service and have the service count towards meeting eligibility requirements for the Teacher Defined Benefit System.

35. Allowing those who have filed a grievance a choice between having a grievance decided by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) or through binding arbitration.

36. All professional student support personnel (school counselors, nurses and speech pathologists/ audiologists and psychologists) currently meeting established criteria for Advanced Degrees Salary Classification should be granted the benefits established for that classification.

37. Requirements that higher education employees are protected by fair and adequate compensation for regular and/or time in excess of their regular work day. Require that higher education employees be protected from efforts to erode tenure.

38. Requirements that all teachers and education support professionals who perform any work assignments outside the normal school day or contract period be compensated at their regular daily rate and maintain all statutory and policy protections that they enjoy as a regular full-time employee. If a job requires a certified teacher, it should be at the full rate of pay.

39. Requirements that every elementary student has access to a certified specialist in each discipline library media, art, music, and physical education for an equal amount of time and a minimum of 60 minutes weekly no less than twice a week without adding to the responsibilities of the regular classroom teachers.

40. Changing or including in state code the professional standing for Sign Language Interpreters. This would include professional pay status for these employees who are certified Educational Interpreters.

41. Any paid or compensated position in a county, such as committee work, evaluation training, staff development, textbook selection and other items outside of the regular employment contract, be posted at the county level with a limit that an individual may not serve on more than 2 of those at a time, unless there are no additional applicants.

42. Changing state code to require written consent from all parties for a recording device to be used in a classroom and educational related setting, except for teacher self-assessment purposes.

43. WVEA supports student accountability for learning, behavior, attendance and test scores.

44. The WVEA supports legislation to provide paid maternity and paternity leave of at least three months to all new parents, including adoptive parents without the loss of banked sick days.

45. All aides assigned to general classrooms in grades K-6 should receive compensation for overage of class size per existing policy for K-6 teachers.

46. WVEA seeks legislation that would require county boards of education to encumber funds that pay employee salaries and benefits for 12 full months instead of 10 months.

47. WVEA supports legislation that will provide for a ½ percent or higher severance tax on gas from Marcellus and Uttica Shale and other additional new shale gases. WVEA will work in conjunction with other organizations to secure passage of such legislation to support retired public school employees’ benefits.
 
48. Students who enroll in a West Virginia public school who are required to take WVDE mandated testing and have been homeschooled or attended a non-public school should not have their scores calculated into the overall school score for a period of two years.

49. WVEA will advocate for protection of ESP positions in the special education setting crucial to the overall well-being of our neediest students during the reduction in force or transfer process.

50. WVEA opposes the following:

• So-called right-to-work legislation

• The elimination of payroll deduction for union/association dues

• Merit pay

• Competency testing for teachers

• Home school expansion that reduces standards and accountability

• Initiative, referendum and recall

• Education savings accounts

• Reduction in the funding or elimination of agencies that work toward reducing historic inequities including discrimination based on gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability, and those agencies which promote coordination of services to children. These agencies include the Human Rights Commission and the Women’s Commission.

• Reduction in the qualifications for the state superintendent of schools

• Attempts by the Legislature to supersede the expertise of professional educators and subject area experts in the establishment of educational standards and curriculum. WVEA strongly opposes any effort by the Legislature to usurp the constitutional authority of the state Board of Education.