Senate committee OKs planning period bill

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The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A bill to allow West Virginia teachers to determine how to use their planning time passed the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.

The bill mandates that administrators may not ask a teacher to attend meetings, training or any other work-related event during a planning period. This includes parent-teacher conferences.

Frank Collier, executive director of the West Virginia Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals, said the bill moved authority away from the principals. He asked when teachers would meet with parents if not during planning periods. He said he wants to see the bill allow principals to require teachers to attend some types of meetings.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said he wants to see teachers' contracts extended, to allow ample time for important meetings and planning.

Lee also said that with the increase in project-based learning, teachers already are working many extra hours late at night to prepare for students.

State Superintendent Jim Phares said he recognizes the complexity of the issue but believes the bill might conflict with special-education laws. Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, special-education teachers are required to attend Individualized Education Program meetings with parents.

Phares said he agrees that planning periods should be teacher-directed but that there should be flexibility that allows for collaboration, teacher evaluations and other meetings that directly affect student learning.

Donna Peduto, director of operations for the state Board of Education, said a statewide study on planning time revealed that the amount of time teachers had was less important than the quality of time. Teachers indicated that collaboration with other teachers was most important to them.

The bill has been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.