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Week Four

It has been an important week for education-related bills in the House and Senate. Several bills have passed this week and two especially harmful bills have been completed and sent to the governor.

The charter school bill (HB 2012) passed the Senate by a vote of 19-14 on Monday. It was then reported back to the House where they voted to accept the Senate’s version of the bill by a vote of 68-31 on Wednesday. We have sent a letter to the governor asking him to veto this bill, but we need your help. Call the governor and ask him to veto the bill. Governor Justice has just five days to either sign or veto a bill, otherwise it will become law with or without his signature so start calling him now!

Another bill we need your help with is the anti-strike bill (SB11). This bill passed the House by a vote of 53-46 on Tuesday. It was then sent back to the Senate where they voted to accept the House’s version of the bill by a vote of 21-12 on Wednesday. Again, start calling Governor Justice now and ask him to veto this bill.

Other bills that passed this week include:

  • HB 2013 (ESAs): This bill passed the House for the second time on Thursday by a vote of 57-42 and will now be sent to the Senate. The bill would give $4,600 to students who have been enrolled in public school for at least 45 days. The money can be used for things like private school tuition and tutoring. The program is open to public school students with a cap of 5% of the state’s student body population. However, if enrollment in the program is less than 5% by July 1, 2024 then the program will open to private and home school students in 2026. This would put the cost of the bill at well over $100 million. Start calling your senators now and ask them to vote NO on this bill!
  • HB 2267 (Bus operator in Residence): The bill passed the House by a vote of 93-0 on Monday and will now be sent to the Senate. The program is an incentive to get more bus drivers. Those who participate will receive 60% of the base salary of a regularly employed bus driver with zero years of experience. Upon completion of the program, a person must work 6 months as a substitute bus driver in the county or pay the money back. 
  • HB 2791 (Vocational Schools Enrollment): This bill passed the House by a vote of 96-2 on Wednesday and will now be sent to the Senate. The bill would allow for home school and private school students to take classes at a county vocational school as space allows.
  • SB 356 (Driver’s Ed): The bill passed by a vote of 33-0 in the Senate on Wednesday and will now be sent to the House. This bill would allow the written part of the driver’s license exam to be taken in school driver education courses. 

An open enrollment bill began moving in the Senate this week. SB 375 would limit the reason that an open enrollment application can be denied. The bill says an application may only be denied by a county board of education due to grade level capacity, if allowing the transfer would not be in the best interest of the nonresident student, or if the nonresident student failed to fill out or submit the application correctly. The bill was on second reading/amendment stage on Friday. No amendments were made and it will be on third reading on Monday.

SB 435 was also on second reading on Friday. This bill would require a county superintendent to authorize at least one principal or administrator at each nonpublic school in the county to issue a work permit for students at that school. This bill also be on third reading on Monday.

HB 2906 was on first reading in the House on Friday. This bill originated in the House Education Committee on Tuesday and deals with School Building Authority Funding. The bill would allow the SBA to use 10% of their annual construction and major improvements budget for projects at vocational schools throughout the state. The current limit is 3%. The bill will be on second reading on Monday.

HB 2746 creates the Behavioral Health Workforce Initiative administered by the Higher Education Policy Commission and was discussed in the House Education Committee on Tuesday. The intent of the program is to incentivize and promote careers in behavioral health by:

  • Providing funds for two additional residents in West Virginia based psychiatry programs each year, beginning in 2022 until a total of eight additional psychiatry residents are added by 2026.
  • Providing funds for five one-year doctoral-level psychology internship stipends in West Virginia, beginning in July 2021 and increasing the number of interns supported by the program to 10 by July 2024.
  • Providing funds for 20 masters’ degree level psychology, social work, and counseling internship stipends in West Virginia, beginning in July 2021 and increasing the number of interns supported by the program to 40 by July 2024.

The bill was passed out of committee and will now be sent to the floor.

The Jump Start Savings Account Bill started moving in the Senate. The Senate Education Committee discussed HB 2001 on Thursday. The bill creates this account which acts like a Smart 529 Account that can be used for trades instead of college. The tax-free money can be used for tools and equipment needed for an apprenticeship, applying for a certification and more. The bill passed out of committee and was sent to the floor.

HJR1 showed up in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. This resolution would put a proposed amendment to the WV Constitution the ballot in the 2022 general election. This would state that any rules put into effect by the State Board of Education, shall be submitted to the Legislature for its review and approval/rejection. This resolution passed out of committee and was sent to the Senate floor.

HB 2852 was in the House Education Committee on Thursday. This bill deals with the State Department of Education’s requirement to distribute each county’s share of funds for increased enrollment. This bill removes the requirement that the first half of funds be distributed by September 1. Instead, all funds would be distributed on or before December 31. Counties may request up to 60% of their share based on projected increase numbers before December 31. This bill passed out of committee and was sent to the House Finance Committee.

The committee also discussed HB 2097 on Thursday. This bill creates a calculation for including homeschooled students enrolled in one virtual class to a county’s net enrollment. The county’s net enrollment would be increased by multiplying the number of those students by 0.15. This bill passed out of committee and was sent to the floor.


Week Three

As week three comes to a close, it is obvious that things in the Legislature are not slowing down any time soon. Several bills passed through the House and Senate this week, some of which by-passed their committee references entirely.

In the Senate, SB 11 (anti-strike) passed by a vote of 21-12 on Monday. It was then reported to the House, where they voted to suspend the rules and dispense with the committee reference. This meant that the bill could immediately begin moving on the House floor. This is the bill that declares any work stoppage or strike by public employees to be unlawful. The bill states that accrued time may not be used to cancel days lost to a work stoppage/strike. A work stoppage/strike is determined to be grounds for termination in this bill. The bill continues that if an employee remains employed by the county board, the board must withhold the prorated salary or hourly pay for each day of participation in a work stoppage/strike. The bill originally said that if a school day is canceled due to a work stoppage/strike, the school for which the day was canceled may not participate in extracurricular activities, but this section was removed on second reading. On Friday, the bill should have been on third reading/passage stage. However, the bill was moved to the inactive calendar with no reason given.

 SB 14 (Alternative certification) was reported to the House on Wednesday after the Senate passed the bill last week. Again, the House voted to suspend the rules and dispense with the committee reference. This bill would provide a third option for alternative certification. This option would require a person to:

  • Obtain a bachelor’s degree
  • Pass a criminal background test
  • Complete pedagogical training or a pedagogical course in substantive alignment with nationally recognized pedagogical standards
  • Pass the same subject matter and competency test required by the state board for traditional program applicants for licensure (Praxis)

The bill passed by a vote of 68-27 on Friday and it will now be sent to the governor.

Other bills that passed this week include:

  • SB 89 (Private pre-k): This bill allows private schools that are already accredited to register pre-k students. Currently they are unable to enroll pre-k students without a childcare license. The bill passed by a vote of 34-0 in the Senate on Wednesday and will now be sent to the House.
  • SB 275 (Intermediate courts): This bill would create the Intermediate Court of Appeals. There would be two districts (North and South) with three judges each and the court would go into effect July 1, 2022. These judges will first be appointed by the governor to 2, 4 and 6 year terms. After that, they would be elected to 12 year terms. As it pertains to us, this bill creates another layer when trying to appeal a level 3 grievance decision. The bill requires our employment-related issues to be heard before the Intermediate Court so that we would bypass the current system that requires appeals to be heard in the Kanawha County Circuit Court. This would prolong the time it takes to get decisions and escalated the costs of an already long and expensive process. After much debate, the bill passed by a vote of 19-15 in the Senate on Wednesday and will now be sent to the House.
  • SB 7 (political activity): This bill says that a public employee may not engage in political activity while on duty or while using any vehicle owned or leased by the State of West Virginia. Political activity is defined as advocating for other to vote for or against a candidate or political party. It passed by a vote of 34-0 on Thursday in the Senate and will now be sent to the House.
  • HB 2529 (Private school testing) : This bill says that higher education institutions cannot require a graduate of a private, nonpublic or home school to submit to alternative testing as a precondition for acceptance. This is as long as the student has an acceptable score on their ACT, SAT or other test recognized by the institution. The bill also says that a higher education institution may not reject a student (who has a diploma or other appropriate credentials) because their secondary education was not accredited by the State Board of Education. It passed the House by a vote of 94-1 on Friday and will now be sent to the Senate.
  • HJR 1 (Legislative Oversight) : This resolution would put a proposed amendment to the WV Constitution the ballot in the 2022 general election. This would state that any rules put into effect by the State Board of Education, shall be submitted to the Legislature for its review and approval/rejection. The resolution passed the House by a vote of 95-2 on Tuesday and will now be sent to the Senate.

HB 2012  (charter schools) was on second on Friday in the Senate. This is the charter school bill that passed the House last week. This bill expands the current charter school law and neuters the county board of education.  Once authorized, county boards will have no authority over charter schools, from funding to overseeing the safety of our students.  In addition, this bill authorizes virtual charter schools – one for every county. Each county virtual school could take up to 10% of the students in that county. There could also be two statewide virtual schools. An amendment in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday put a cap on these statewide virtual schools at 1,500 students each. That amendment also changed the number of brick and mortar charter schools from ten back down to three, as is already in code. However, this amendment was reversed when the bill was on second reading on Friday to allow ten public charter schools to open every three years and 5% of the total student body population to be enrolled in each statewide virtual school. This version of the bill will be on third reading/passage stage on Monday. The Senate did agree to reserve the right to amend on third reading, so more amendments may be coming. Please continue to call your senators and ask them to vote NO on this bill.

HB 2267 (Bus Operator in Residence) was on second reading on Friday. This bill would create the Bus Operator in Residence Program. The program is an incentive to get more bus drivers. Those who participate will receive 60% of the base salary of a regularly employed bus driver with zero years of experience. Upon completion of the program, a person must work 6 months as a substitute bus driver in the county or pay the money back. Counties will come up with their own plans for this program and submit them to the State Board for approval. No amendments were made and it will be on third reading next week.

The House Education Committee met on Thursday. They discussed an originating bill dealing with enrollment at county vocational schools. The bill would allow for home school and private school students to take classes at a county vocational school. The student could not be required to pay any expense greater than what the public-school student may be charged for the class (for things like equipment). The bill passed out of committee and was reported to the floor on Friday and given a number, HB 2791.

House Education also discussed HB 2362 (Trauma-Informed Practices) on Thursday. This bill requires the state board to implement trauma-informed practices in grades K-12. The bill defines trauma-informed practices as evidence-based professional development that promotes a shared understanding among educators trauma can impact student learning/behavior/relationships in schools and traumatic experiences do not inherently undermine the capabilities of students. It would also adopt disciplinary practices that have holistic assessments and positive behavioral intervention and avoid harsh and punitive punishments. Finally, trauma-informed practices would promote a culture of acceptance and help all students feel connected to the school community. The committee amended the bill to remove the section that advocates for disciplinary actions that do not discriminate based race, color, national origin or sexual orientation or gender identity. The amended version of the bill passed out of the committee and will now be sent to the floor.

Make your voice heard throughout this session

  • State lawmakers are making decisions about resources and issues that impact our classrooms. They need to hear from you! Contact them today and urge them to make public education a priority and to keep their promises to provide resources for students and educators.
  • Share with us your interactions with your lawmakers. Your legislative contacts online, at home and at the Capitol helps as we advocate for public schools.
  • Want to help keep lawmakers informed about issues impacting our schools? Become a WVEA Member Advocate.

Week Two

This was not a good week for public education in the Legislature. The majority party has made it clear that they are out for vengeance on public school employees. While things may seem hopeless, all is not lost.  Especially when we're fighting for our students and our public schools.  It is incredibly important that you continue to contact your legislators and ask them to vote against these harmful bills.

In the House, one of the big headlines of the week was the passage of the charter expansion bill, HB 2012. This bill expands the current charter school law and neuters the county board of education.  Once authorized, county boards will have no authority over charter schools, from funding to overseeing the safety of our students.  In addition, this bill authorizes virtual charter schools – one for every county. That could take approximately 10% of the enrollment. Public school funding will be used to pay for this – those are resources that should be spent on our students and for classroom educators. The bill passed the House by a vote of 66-32 on Tuesday and was sent to the Senate. It will likely pass the Senate next week, so start calling your senators now!

HB 2013 passed the House by a vote of 60-39 on Thursday. This is the bill creates an education savings account (ESA) called the “Hope Scholarship Fund” and will be funded the Department of Education. However, the House voted to pull the bill back on Friday and send it to the House Finance Committee. This comes after an amendment was made on second reading to allow private and home school children to be eligible for the program in 2026. This would increase the cost of the bill from roughly $23 million (all taken from public schools) to over $100 million. This money will rob our public school students of resources and opportunities and will be used to pay for tuition and fees at a private school or home school service. The bill will now be in the House Finance Committee next week.

HB 2001, which creates the Jumpstart Savings Account, also passed this week. It acts like a Smart 529 Account that can be used for trade schools instead of college. The tax-free money can be used for tools and equipment needed for an apprenticeship, applying for a certification and more. The bill passed by a vote of 96-0 on Tuesday and will now be sent to the Senate.

HB 2536 deals with work stoppages and strikes. It originated in the House Education Committee on Saturday and was supposed to be on second reading on Wednesday. However, it was moved to the inactive calendar.  

Yet another attack on public educators is HB 2009 which tries to silence your voice by eliminating payroll deductions for OUR association. It’s a payback bill aimed at those of us who successfully advocated for public schools. This bill has nothing to do with improving education. Eliminating payroll deduction is designed to dictate how we spend our paycheck and to weaken our public sector labor unions. The bill passed the House by a vote of 61-36 on Friday and was sent to the Senate. Start calling your senators now and tell them to vote no on HB 2009.

HB 2582 began as an originating bill in the House Education Committee. This bill would create a third option for obtaining an alternative certification and is identical to SB 14 currently moving in the Senate. The bill was placed on the inactive House calendar on Wednesday.

HJR 1 was on first reading in the House on Friday. This resolution would put a proposed amendment to the WV Constitution the ballot in the 2022 general election. This would state that any rules put into effect by the State Board of Education, shall be submitted to the Legislature for its review and approval/rejection. This resolution will be called the “Public Education Accountability Amendment” on the ballot. It will be on second reading/amendment stage next week.

There were also several bills moving over in the Senate this week. SB 15 redefines the kind of master’s degree that can be used for a salary increase for educators. The bill requires that the master’s degree must be related to your field of public education. Any master’s degree obtained on or before July 1, 2022 will still qualify you for a master's qualification on the salary schedule, regardless of the degree. This bill passed the Senate by a vote of 24-10 on Thursday and was sent to the House.

SB 14 would provide a third option for alternative certification. This option would require one to:

  • Obtain a bachelor’s degree
  • Pass a criminal background test
  • Complete pedagogical training or a pedagogical course in substantive alignment with nationally recognized pedagogical standards
  • Pass the same subject matter and competency test required by the state board for traditional program applicants for licensure (Praxis)

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 25-9 on Thursday and was sent to the House.

SB 11 was on second reading Friday. This bill declares any work stoppage or strike by public employees to be unlawful. The bill states that accrued time may not be used to cancel days lost to a work stoppage/strike. A work stoppage/strike is determined to be grounds for determination in this bill. The bill continues that if an employee remains employed by the county board, the board must withhold the prorated salary or hourly pay for each day of participation in a work stoppage/strike. It also says that if a school day is canceled due to a work stoppage/strike, the school for which the day was canceled may not participate in extracurricular activities. No amendments were made and the bill will be on third reading/passage stage next week.

The Senate Finance Committee discussed SB 275 on Friday. This bill would create the Intermediate Court of Appeals. There would be two districts (North and South) with three judges each and the court would go into effect July 1, 2022. These judges will first be appointed by the governor to 2, 4 and 6 year terms. After that, they would be elected to 12 year terms. As it pertains to us, this bill creates another layer when trying to appeal a level 3 grievance decision. The bill requires our employment-related issues to be heard before the Intermediate Court so that we would bypass the current system that requires appeals to be heard in the Kanawha County Circuit Court. This would prolong the time it takes to get decisions and escalated the costs of an already long and expensive process. The bill passed out of committee and was sent to the floor.

SB 7 was taken up in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. This bill says that a public employee may not engage in political activity while on duty, while wearing a uniform or symbol that identifies the person’s office or position, while using any vehicle owned or leased by the State of West Virginia or while in any building used for the official duties of someone employed by the state or agency thereof. Political activity is defined as urging any person to vote for or against any candidate or ballot issue or to support or oppose a political committee, political party or any other organization engaged in electioneering communications or independent expenditures. The bill passed out of committee and was sent to the floor.


Week One

During the State of the State Address Governor Jim Justice outlined a variety of accomplishments and plans for a flat budget along with proposals for an income tax cut.  While a flat budget doesn’t bode well for public schools, we applaud the governor’s goal around increasing broadband statewide – that has been an equity issue for our students and families for a long time. 

Both the House and Senate Education Committees made quick work of getting bills sent to the floor this week. Several of those bills are intended to silence the voice of educators. This is disconcerting and disappointing. 

The House Education Committee met on Thursday afternoon and discussed bills for almost two hours. In the end, three bills came out of committee. 

HB 2001 will create the Jumpstart Savings Account Act. Intended to be like a Smart 529 Account that would be used for trades instead of college, the account could be started with as little as $25 and would be tax-free money that can be used for tools and equipment needed for an apprenticeship, applying for a certification and more. The bill was sent to the floor.

HB 2012 is a charter school bill that evidently is intended to build off the current law that was pass during the 2020 Legislative Session. HB 2012 prohibits the conversion of private schools into public charter schools, prohibits elected officials from profiting off charter schools in any way, creates a process to appeal an authorizer’s decision to the state board and creates virtual public charter schools. The bill would allow for 10 charter schools through July 1, 2023 (instead of the current three allowed). It was also sent to the floor.

HB 2013 would establish the “Hope Scholarship Program,” a form of education savings accounts (ESAs). The funding for the program would come from the Department of Education, in other words from funds intended for public school classrooms and students. The amount given to each student would be equal to 100% of the previous year’s per pupil spending and funds can be spend on tuition/fees at another school, fees for college entrance exams, tutoring services, etc. This bill was sent to the House Finance Committee.

The Senate Education Committee met on Friday to discuss SB 15. This bill redefines the kind of master’s degree that can be used for a salary increase for educators. Currently, the master’s degree must be related to your job. Any master’s degree obtained before July 1, 2022 will still qualify you for a salary increase, regardless of the degree. The bill passed out of committee and was sent to the finance committee, although Senator Rucker said she will be asking the chair of the finance committee to waive the reference because the bill has no financial affect.

HB 2009 – is a bill to silence your voice by eliminating paycheck deductions. It passed out the House Judiciary Committee on Friday. Eliminating payroll deduction is designed to dictate how we spend our paycheck and to weaken our public labor unions. As WVEA members and as citizens, we have the freedom and the right to spend their paychecks as we see fit. We question the reasons for proposing bills like this.  After all, West Virginia lawmakers usually call for less government and less intrusion into our private lives. We want to keep it that way. And if they dictate how we can spend our paychecks now, what will they do next? An amendment was added limiting the ability of union members to have political donations taken out of their paycheck. 

WVEA educators have been successful in advocate for students and for schools. HB 2009 bill is a blatant attempt weaken our voice - it has nothing to do with improving education. The bill passed out of committee and was sent to the floor.

Make your voice heard throughout this session

  • State lawmakers are making decisions about resources and issues that impact our classrooms. They need to hear from you! Contact them today and urge them to make public education a priority and to keep their promises to provide resources for students and educators.
  • Share with us your interactions with your lawmakers. Your legislative contacts online, at home and at the Capitol helps as we advocate for public schools.
  • Want to help keep lawmakers informed about issues impacting our schools? Become a WVEA Member Advocate.

When your lawmakers come back home, take the opportunity to organize socially distanced meetings. The more they see what you do each and every day, the more they will respect the job you do. Call your lawmakers and email them – make your voice heard. Tell them your story and the stories of our students and how their actions, or inactions, impact academic success. Remember, you are the true experts of public education. 


2021 Governor Justice State of the State Address Transcipt