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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Please call members of the House Education Committee to oppose SB 401 (seniority in RIF and transfer). This bill, which passed the Senate on Tuesday by a 25-8 vote, will allow RIFs, rights to recall and transfer decisions to be based on an employee's “qualifications,” not seniority, as set by a county board's policy.

This opens the door to concerns about nepotism, favoritism and discrimination in RIF and transfers. The bill advances to the House Education Committee.

Members of the committee are: Paul Espinosa, Joe Statler, Ricky Moye, Sean Hornbuckle, Stephen Baldwin, Sara Blair, Roy Cooper, Mark Dean, Ed Evans, Michael Folk, Jason Harshbarger, Ken Hicks, Joshua Higginbotham, John Kelly, Rodney Pyles, Ralph Rodighiero, Matthew Rohrbach, W. Roger Romine, Ruth Rowan, Larry Rowe, Robert Thompson, Jill Upson, Danny Wagner, Steve Westfall, and S. Marshall Wilson. You can find their phone numbers here

A good bit of news came out of the House of Delegates on Tuesday afternoon, when delegates rejected a bill (HB 3088) that would have removed the teacher-pupil ratio cap in the sixth grade by a 55-45 vote.

Credit goes to Delegate Ruth Rowan, R-Hampshire, as well as several Democrats who spoke against the bill and members of both parties who ultimately voted against it. See the roll call vote here.

Rowan asked her daughter, a sixth-grade teacher, her thoughts about what the bill would do. She said sixth grade is a transition year for children, who had gotten used to having just one teacher. Students have trouble adjusting and difficulty with organizational skills. Bullying begins at that age.

Also, because “we’re putting more and more demands on our children and on our teachers,” Rowan urged delegates to reject removing the cap on the sixth-grade ratios.

Delegates Richard Iaquinta, Robert Thompson, Ricky Moye, Ed Evans, Justin Marcum and Larry Rowe also spoke out strongly against the bill. 

Please continue to call delegates opposing SB 239 (payroll deduction). The bill advanced from the House Judiciary Committee late Monday. Please call the 26 delegates on the call to action WVEA sent out Monday, and ask these delegates to vote NO on SB 239!   

The full House passed HB 2711 (Gov. Justice’s education bill) by a 76-24 vote on Tuesday morning.

The bill would eventually eliminate RESAs, makes school calendar adjustments, and adds language allowing counties and schools to “develop and execute a planning period strategy” that best meets their individual needs.

It no longer includes a pay raise for classroom teachers and education support professionals.

WVEA has concerns about both the planning period language and calendar changes, and we oppose removing the pay raise from HB 2711 and placing it into HB 2817 (see below).

We will keep you posted on HB 2711.

The PEIA 80/20 bill (HB 2871) that would eliminate the mandate that the state pay 80 percent of PEIA premiums and employees pay 20 percent appears to be dead for the session. The bill had been placed on the inactive House calendar last week and never came off it.

The House did not vote Tuesday on HB 2817 (Teachers Retirement System refinancing). It has been placed on the inactive House calendar but that could still change on Wednesday. It had been on second reading in the full House. 

In an attempt to garner WVEA’s support and your support for a bill that refinances the current TRS liability payment plan, the House amended the $808 teacher pay raise into the bill. The amended HB 2817 did not include a pay raise for education support professionals. By restructuring the liability it will cost the state an additional $1.6 billion to fully fund TRS.

This increase will continue to jeopardize future salary increases for active employees and COLAs for retirees. Refinancing the TRS liability to balance the budget is not a wise option.

The Legislature must significantly increase revenue to balance the budget and move the state forward, instead of costly proposals like HB 2817.

The House’s budget took a blow Tuesday when HB 2816, a tax bill that would have eliminated a tax credit for the film industry and also increased the beer barrel tax (per 31 gallons of beer) from $5.50 to $8.00, was defeated by a 60-39 vote.

 

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Senate Finance Committee advanced an amended SB 609 (public school support) on Monday evening.

The amendment would cause the state to set the maximum regular levy rates for counties, which would increase county property tax rates, but would allow counties to opt out of those increased rates.

Without the increased county levy rates, state aid to schools would be decreased by more than $79 million.

This creates a lose-lose for counties. Counties who opt out of the higher levy rates stand to lose hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in state aid for schools.

If the bill passes, county officials would take the blame from many property owners because of a move the Legislature had forced upon them.

This is a sly way for the Legislature to cut state aid to public education while forcing counties to keep their increased levy rates (and higher local property taxes) or see significant cuts to their school’s funding.

WVEA still has questions about whether this bill violates the Recht decision on equitable school funding.

SB 609 now advances to the Senate floor.

The House Judiciary Committee continued to discuss SB 239 (payroll deduction) into Monday night, with lots of questions about the bill’s burdensome new requirements regarding dues deductions. Please call the 26 delegates on a call to action WVEA sent out earlier today, and ask these delegates to vote NO on SB 239!   

The House on Tuesday could vote on HB 2817, the Teachers Retirement System refinancing bill

In an attempt to garner WVEA’s support and your support for a bill that refinances the current TRS liability payment plan, the House amended the $808 teacher pay raise into the bill. The amended HB 2817 did not include a pay raise for education support professionals. By restructuring the liability it will cost the state an additional $1.6 billion to fully fund TRS.

This increase will continue to jeopardize future salary increases for active employees and COLAs for retirees. Refinancing the TRS liability to balance the budget is not a wise option. The salary increase itself costs $21 million.

The Legislature must significantly increase revenue to balance the budget and move the state forward, and HB 2817 is not the answer.      

Also on Monday, the House rejected an amendment that would have put pay raises for classroom teachers and service personnel back into Gov. Justice’s education bill, HB 2711. The House Finance Committee took the raises out of that bill on Friday and put them into HB 2817 instead.

HB 2711 is expected to be on third reading, or passage stage, on Tuesday.