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Final Legislative Update – 2017 Regular Legislative Session

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April 12, 2017

 

Final Legislative Update – 2017 Regular Legislative Session

Public education weathered another challenging legislative session, and WVEA saw a fair share of bills bad for teachers, service personnel, retirees, students and public education in general that thankfully failed during the session. Attempts to pass education savings accounts/vouchers failed, as did bills to refinance the Teachers Retirement System unfunded liability (HB 2817) and to change PEIA’s 80/20 rule (HB 2871). We also saw bills fail to eliminate teacher-pupil ratios in the sixth grade, eliminate seniority in RIFs, and to open up school transfers to any point throughout the school year.

Still, bad bills have passed the Legislature. The House and Senate-approved budget (HB 2018) features no revenue increases, significant cuts and does not include the $808 teacher pay raise Gov. Justice had proposed. Below is a list of key bills that passed and failed during the 2017 session.

Key bills that PASSED during the 2017 regular session of the Legislature:

SB 239 (payroll deductions) is nothing more than a partisan political attack on labor organizations making it more burdensome for an employee to have union dues, charitable deductions and credit union savings deducted from their paychecks.

The real reason for making this burdensome change is to weaken labor organizations that have disagreed politically with Republican leadership in the Legislature. SB 239 would weaken our ability to make positive changes for teachers and service personnel at the Legislature, the state board, PEIA, CPRB, and in local counties.

Choosing what to do with your money is your business, and the government should not meddle in what you deduct from your paycheck.

The bill also says an employer may not withhold or divert any portion of an employee’s wages or salary for use as a political contribution to a candidate or PAC without a written assignment by an employee allowing it.

SB 239 is one of the bills WVEA has asked Gov. Justice to veto. The governor vetoed this bill on 4/26.

House Bill 2711 (Governor Justice’s education bill) allows counties who add up to 30 minutes a day beyond 315 minutes for elementary, 330 for middle and 345 for high schools to use up to five days’ worth of accrued minutes to cover days lost due to bad weather and emergencies.

It also would give counties five days or equivalent portions of days within the school calendar to be used exclusively for collaboration days, defined as “educator activities … to improve instruction.”

The bill would allow schools to use “reimagined instructional days,” also known as snow-packet days, to achieve 180 days of instruction.

HB 2711 allows for uninterrupted planning periods each day during which administrators may not require teachers to complete duties beyond instructional planning, such as administrative tasks and meetings.

The bill allows at least six two-hour blocks of time for faculty senate.

The bill also will eliminate RESAs after July 1, 2018. The next school year would serve as a transition year for RESAs.

In the 2018-2019 school year RESAs could be replaced by “educational services cooperatives,” which would allow individual counties to partner on services such as purchasing, legal services, administrative services, professional development, data processing, distance learning, vocational rehabilitation, and health, diagnostic, and child development services.

The bill also requires several things the state Board of Education has already acted on: It eliminates the Smarter Balanced and does not allow the PARCC exam. It also does not allow Common Core standards in the future.

HB 2711 also requires the state board to “constructively engage” with LOCEA on the assessment program it intends to adopt that will replace the Smarter Balanced.

HB 2561 (public school support) would make foundation allowance changes to the school-aid funding formula. It gives counties the ability to use some money typically dedicated to the replacement of school buses, the purchase of textbooks and also instructional technology for: school facility and equipment repair and maintenance and even to hire more professional educators and service personnel, if they choose.

The bill would allow a full 50 percent of a county’s allowance for textbooks, workbooks and other school supplies (Step 7 funding) to be used to employ teachers and service personnel. That would increase from the current 25 percent allowed to hire teachers and service personnel.

According to the bill, an additional 25 percent of that allowance for “the improvement of instructional programs” would also be allowed for counties to use to better maintain school facilities or repair/replace equipment.

Some other details of the bill are:

  • It would allow a county to use up to $200,000 annually of the money currently dedicated to bus replacement, to better maintain school facilities or repair/replace equipment as long as the state superintendent of schools verifies the “serviceability of the county’s bus fleet.”
     
  • Changes to “current expense” language would provide 50 counties with at least a little more money for operations and facilities maintenance. The changes would consider the total square footage of school buildings in each county “divided by each county’s net enrollment for school aid purposes.” With these changes, the five counties that stand to lose some current expense funding are: Morgan, Wetzel, Hancock, Ritchie and Brooke.
     
  • The School Building Authority will be required to maintain at least $600,000 in a reserve fund for financially distressed counties for facilities repairs, urgent maintenance needs or facility-related equipment repair or replacement. Financially distressed counties are defined as those running at a deficit or currently on a state Department of Education watch-list because of their financial situations.

HB 2196 (homeschooled and private school students able to play sports at public schools) is generally known as the “Tim Tebow” bill. The bill will allow homeschooled students to play sports and any other WVSSAC-sanctioned activity. It also allows private and parochial school students to participate in those interscholastic activities if their school does not offer any sport or activity.

WVEA has asked the Governor to veto the bill. The governor vetoed this bill on 4/26.

HB 2589 (private and homeschooled students at vocational centers) will allow students from private schools and those who are homeschooled to attend a county or multi-county vocational school.

The bill allows private and homeschooled students to be “treated equally for admission purposes with applicants enrolled in public school.” This could bump public school students from enrollment in a vocational school program in favor or non-public school students.

The bill includes a middle school technical education pilot program. The intent is to expose more seventh- and eighth-grade students to career and technical education and college- and career-readiness goals, but the pilot program does not include any new money to develop the pilot program.

The program would be a one-semester elective course. Teachers, counselors and other middle school staff with a college degree can be instructors in the pilot. Instructors are not required to obtain any additional certification or license to instruct the course.

The pilot also would include instruction on career skills, and what’s needed to discover and take advantage of employment opportunities, such as: performing a job search, developing a résumé and preparing for a job interview.

Middle schools wanting to apply for the pilot would need to apply to the state Board of Education. According to the bill, the goal is to have at least 10 middle schools per year participating in the pilot program.

WVEA has asked the Governor to veto this bill. The governor vetoed this bill on 4/26.

Other bills that PASSED during the session:

SB 186 (earlier birthdates for pre-k and kindergarten) moves the birthdates for 4-year-old students to become eligible for pre-kindergarten from before September 1 to “before July 1,” and the same for 5-year-olds to be eligible for kindergarten and also the school compulsory age of 6. The date for 4-year-olds would not become effective until the 2018-2019 school year. For children age 5 and age 6 it would take effect in 2019-2020.

Senate Bill 221 (composition of PEIA Finance Board) makes significant changes to the composition of the PEIA Finance Board. No member of the board is allowed to be a registered lobbyist. In addition, a representative of organized labor on the board was taken out of the bill.

The bill will allow a teacher who is currently working, and has been a teacher for at least three years, to serve on the Finance Board. The bill allows the governor to appoint one member each to represent public employees, retired employees and a political subdivision participating in PEIA. Of the four at-large members on the Finance Board, the bill requires one to have experience in the insurance benefits business; one must have knowledge and expertise relating to the financing, development or management of employee benefit programs; one must be a health actuary or a certified public accountant with financial experience in the health care marketplace; and the eighth must be a certified public accountant with at least three years of experience with financial management and employee benefits programs.

SB 231 (Medicaid billing) would allow county employees to stop billing for Medicaid services if it is not worth their time, money or effort. Medicaid now requires billing in 15-minute increments and some counties say it is not worth the effort to bill, as the costs exceed the benefits. Children would continue to receive Medicaid-eligible services, state Department of Education officials have said. Gov. Justice has already signed the legislation.

SB 630 (virtual schools) would allow county school boards or multi-county consortiums to create virtual instructional programs.

This would provide full-time online or blended programs of instruction for students enrolled in any grades between kindergarten through 12th-grade. Students would be included in their home county’s net enrollment and the county would be eligible for state-aid funding. They could also work toward earning their diplomas.

County boards and multi-county consortiums that participate in the virtual schools program can contract with virtual school providers.

Students in a virtual school program will be subject to the same assessments and academic standards as students in traditional public school, and students in a program are exempt from some compulsory attendance requirements related to physically being in a building.

HB 2195 (drug awareness in schools) would require a comprehensive drug awareness and prevention program in public schools. The program would begin no later than the 2018-2019 school year.

Instruction would be provided by educators, drug rehabilitation specialists and law-enforcement agencies, who will periodically provide age-appropriate student education on their experiences with the impacts of illegal alcohol and drug use.

Health education in grades six through 12 would include at least 60 minutes of instruction on the dangers on opioid use, as the county Board of Education determines appropriate.

HB 2373 (epinephrine auto-injectors on buses) will allow school bus drivers with the proper training to use a school’s supply or a child’s supply of epinephrine in cases of anaphylaxis. Bus drivers will be immune from liability unless there is willful or gross negligence in using the auto-injectors.

HB 2494 (school and school district report cards) no longer requires county school boards to mail home school or school district report cards to parents or guardians. Instead, the report card must be made easily accessible to the public on a county board’s website. If requested it also must be provided in paper format to a parent, guardian or custodian.

H.B. 2542 (higher education personnel) has been signed into law. It eliminates bumping rights based on seniority for higher education staff, as well as rights to recall, and says colleges should be allowed to incentivize job performance.

The bill allows WVU, Marshall University, the School of Osteopathic Medicine and other two-year and four-year public colleges to set their own classification and compensation systems. The “other” colleges must provide notice to the Higher Education Policy Commission to set their own. It allows college governing boards to adopt rules related to faculty salaries.

WVEA opposed the bill and asked the Governor to veto the bill.

HB 2637 (retired teachers in critical need and shortage areas) extends to June 30, 2020, the employment of retired teachers as substitutes beyond the post-retirement limit in areas of critical need and shortage. It also would allow a retired teacher to serve as a critical needs substitute without any loss of retirement benefits as long as they retire during a fiscal year preceding the fiscal year when they are first employed as a critical needs substitute teacher.

The bill includes the important stipulation that nothing “prevents a county board from filling a posted vacancy in an established, existing or newly created position at any time” or from using the regular hiring practices that are currently being used in counties.

To recruit professional personnel to a critical need and shortage area, HB 2637 also allows county boards of education to use local funds to pay prospective professionals a one-time financial incentive “such as, but not limited to, a signing bonus or moving expenses, after a contract of employment has been signed.”

HB 2702 (student absences) says personal illness or injury of the student’s parent, guardian, custodian or family member will be excused as long as there is a reasonable explanation for why the student’s absence was necessary and happened because of the illness or injury to the family member. Documentation of absences must be provided to the school not later than three instructional days after the first day the student returns to school.

HB 2771 (Armed Forces spouses as teachers) passed and would allow the spouses of active duty military service members who have an unencumbered certification as a teacher outside the state to be eligible for a one-year temporary teaching certificate. The certificate must be renewed annually.

HB 3080 (Declaration of Independence and Constitution curriculum) says that appropriate instruction in social studies classes would be required about the Constitution and Declaration of Independence during “Celebrate Freedom Week” on the week of Sept. 11.

Key bills that FAILED during the 2017 session:

SB 18 and SB 524 (education standards bills). Senate Bill 18 originated as a bill that would call for a new statewide summative assessment after the Smarter Balanced but evolved into an attempt to usurp some of the state board’s authority over education standards and give more power to the Legislature. The bill narrowly passed the Senate, 18-16, and the House Education Committee never took it up.

SB 524 prohibited the state board from adopting Common Core academic standards after July 1, 2018.

The bill also would have required the state board to withdraw from the memorandum of agreement entered into with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, which required that Common Core represents 85 percent of West Virginia’s standards in English language arts and math. Like Senate Bill 18, the House Education Committee did not take up the bill.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Kenny Mann was very supportive in working to defeat these bill.

SB 401 (qualifications in RIFs) would have eliminated seniority as the determining factor in RIFs, in transfers as a result of RIF and also right to recall. It would have allowed the word “qualifications,” as determined by a county board’s policy, to replace seniority.

The bill narrowly passed the Senate Education Committee before it passed the Senate. It was ultimately defeated in the House Education Committee by a 14-7 vote. Your calls to delegates helped to get this bill defeated.

SB 609 (school aid funding) would have increased regular county levy rates to the maximum amount. It also would have cut state aid to school funding by nearly $77 million.

By setting the maximum county levy rates, a county’s total school funding would remain the same, unless the county board lowered the levy rate. SB 609 would have allowed counties to opt out of the higher levy rates, which would end up cutting funding to schools.

HB 2738 (transfer bill), which would have allowed transfers of school employees at any time during the school year with only 10 days of notice required, did not advance in the Senate. It also would have eliminated the April 1 notice date that school employees must be notified that they are subject to transfer.

HB 3088 (teacher-pupil ratios in sixth grade) failed in the House of Delegates by a 55-45 vote. The bill would have eliminated the teacher-pupil ratios in the sixth grade.

HB 3095 (retired teachers able to work for colleges, HEPC) would have allowed teachers to work for a state college or university, the state Higher Education Policy Commission or the Council for Community and Technical College Education without losing their retirement benefits as long as there was at least a six-month break between their retirement and going back to work.

House Joint Resolution 24 (election of state Board of Education) would have allowed six of the nine members of the state Board of Education to be elected by the people of West Virginia, as long as voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution. As amended the bill allowed the Legislature to usurp the constitutional authority of the state Board of Education.

The House Judiciary Committee placed the issue in a study resolution.


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