The 2019-20 WVEA Legislative Agenda was adopted by the delegates to the WVEA Delegate Assembly on April 28, 2019. Legislative priorities are listed in bold type.
Section 1: Salary
- Increase salaries to rank West Virginia school employees at a competitive level with contiguous states in their particular employment category. These salary increases should be funded on a multiple-year basis and keep up with the average yearly rate of inflation.
- Focus on salary as a way to recruit and retain certified, high-quality teachers and education support professionals.
- Advocate for decreasing the local share allocation and dedicating those funds to salaries.
- Support creating comprehensive student loan repayment program for education employees that will provide tax-free and full student loan repayment after 5 years of full-time service in a WV public school system. This will not be restricted by location, grade level or content area.
Section 2: PEIA
- Control PEIA prescription drug and health care costs.
- Support cost-saving and common sense PEIA health care measures for active and retired participants.
- Determine PEIA premiums by a fixed percentage of the active employee’s education-related income and a fixed percentage of the retiree’s education-related retirement pension.
- Allow a surviving spouse of a deceased retiree to use the remainder of the PEIA premiums purchased by a retiree with accumulated sick leave.
- Require insurance coverage for surviving spouse/family of deceased current employees to be extended for a period of ninety days without cost to the family.
- Increase revenue for PEIA through raising the gas severance tax, the corporate net income tax, and other progressive taxation measures.
Section 3: Retirement Benefits
- Increase the state income tax exemption for retired school employees to at least the first $20,000 in teacher retirement benefits.
- Provide 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) which would allow retirees to maintain a standard of living at least commensurate with the retiree’s pre-retirement living standard.
- Support the Teacher’s Retirement System funding mechanism currently in place, which will pay for all liabilities by 2034, and oppose attempts to refinance that funding mechanism to lower the payment by extending the repayment date.
- Increase the monthly minimum pension for retirees with more than twenty years of service to an amount above the federal poverty level.
- Increase the retiree homestead exemption from $20,000 to $40,000.
- Amend WV Code §18A-7A-23 for death benefits to be available after ten years of service with no age requirement, instead of twenty-five years of service at age fifty as in the present statute.
- Grant school employees the ability purchase up to five years of out-of-state educational retirement service to count towards eligibility requirements of the Teacher Defined Benefit System.
- Allow female employees who were required to take maternity leave and therefore lost time toward retirement to be granted retirement credit for this time.
- Allow all employees to use accrued sick days towards years of service for retirement.
- Allow all employees to use accrued sick days for the purchase of PEIA upon retirement at the rate of 2 days for 1 month’s coverage on a single plan and 3 days for 1 month’s coverage on a family plan.
- Ensure the retirement code explicitly state within the retirement packet and annual retirement brochure all deadlines for submission of paperwork, and include within the retirement packet a statement of the potential loss of benefits which may occur if deadlines are not met.
- Exempt Social Security received by all retired public school employees from the WV State Income Tax.
Section 4: Professional Hiring Practices
- Empower 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.
- Give priority to substitute teachers who hold teaching certification whenever possible during hiring, and advocate against hiring substitutes who do not hold a four-year degree nor have significant pedagogical training.
- Ensure every classroom has a fully certified, high-quality teacher.
- Provide a copy of the hiring rubric to an interviewee upon request for comparison of points awarded to each interviewee in order to ensure fairness in the hiring process.
- Ensure fair and adequate compensation of all employees for performing extra-curricular assignments or additional duties beyond their normal job description, e.g. consistent statewide pay for supplemental bus runs, as well as pay for wait time on supplemental runs during the regular school day.
- Allow West Virginia teachers who are not United States citizens to renew their certification on the same schedule as resident educators.
- Grant all professional student support personnel (school counselors, nurses and speech pathologists/ audiologists and psychologists) currently meeting established criteria for Advanced Degrees Salary Classification the benefits established for that classification.
Section 5: Employee Rights
- Grant collective bargaining for all education employees, including all higher education employees.
- Allow public and higher education employees the right to freely express reasoned professional opinions and conduct and publish credible research without fear of dismissal or other forms of reprisal.
- Ensure planning periods for all full-time classroom teachers of no less than sixty continuous minutes of uninterrupted and duty-free time [during the instructional day] to be used at the discretion of the individual teacher.
- 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.
- Allow long-term substitutes to accrue/access sick leave and holiday pay from their first day in that position and remove the requirement of consecutive days that a substitute teacher must work to move to a higher pay status.
- Require that all long-term substitute teaching positions reasonably expected to last for ninety days or more be posted and filled pursuant to the first set of criteria in WV Code §18A-4-7a.
- Exempt school employees 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.
- State that teachers or education support professionals who have filed a grievance have a choice whether their grievance is decided by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) or through binding arbitration.
- Require that county boards of education compensate all teachers and education support professionals who perform any work assignments outside the normal school day or contract period be 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 to complete the task.
- State that a 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, shall be posted at the county level. No individual may serve on more than two of those committees at a time, unless there are no additional applicants.
- 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.
- 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.
- Provide paid leave for extended medical care for self, immediate family or elder care without loss of banked sick days.
- Require that any video or audio recording be reviewed by school administration to determine who should be permitted to have access thereto in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).
Section 6: Education Support Professionals
- Establish equitable classifications for education support professionals by including provisions that recognize years of experience.
- Support the adoption and implementation of a statewide uniform system of evaluation for all education support professionals while changing classification titles to more accurately reflect the work that they are performing, e.g. Aide to Instructional Assistant, Secretary to Administrative Assistant, indicative to national trends.
- Require education support professionals to work no more than eight hours in a single workday without the agreement of the affected employee and should not require tasks outside their statutory job classification requirements.
- Reflect the professional standing for Sign Language Interpreters. This would include professional pay status for these employees who are certified Educational Interpreters.
- State that 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Protect educational support professional positions during the reduction in force or transfer process whose special education positions are crucial to the overall well-being of our neediest students.
- Advocate against using educational support professionals in the place of certified teachers in instructional programs.
- Require all substitute aides be CPR and First Aid certified before taking any substitute position on a bus at the county expense.
- Allow long-term substitute educational support professionals to accrue/access sick leave and holiday pay from their first day in that position and remove the requirement of consecutive days that a substitute educational support professional must work to move to a higher pay status.
- Require an additional trained aide or nurse to accompany a school bus driver when any critical care student requiring medication, other than an Epi-Pen or breathing inhaler, must be administered on a bus.
- Entitle any critical need retired substitute service professional to an unlimited number of days each fiscal year without affecting the monthly retirement benefits of the retiree.
- Require a supplemental stipend for any special needs bus aide that is required to administer medication to children on a bus.
Section 7: Health, Safety, and Success of Public School Students (refer to legislative committee to draft an action statement on the items included in this section)
- Fight for school facilities that are free from violence, bullying, harassment, environmental, health, and indoor air quality problems.
- Institute programs that will discourage students from using tobacco products.
- Limit occupancy of school vehicles to the number of passengers who may be safely seated.
- Create separate alternative schools (at all education levels) to conduct classes during the regular school day for students who exhibit violent or severely disruptive behavior and are unable to succeed in the regular school setting.
- Provide nutritious breakfast and lunch items, which exclude irradiated food ingredients, trans fat, and food additives linked to health or developmental risk.
- Require therapeutic learning centers, classrooms, and programs to be put in place to address students with severe emotional or behavioral needs.
- Limit class sizes in grades Pre-K through five to no more than eighteen students and limit class sizes in grades six through twelve to no more than twenty-five students and require the school-aid formula to provide for the necessary funding. Performance-based ensemble classes should be excluded from class size limits at the discretion of the instructor.
- Support a statewide full-time professional counselor/student ratio of 1:250 and a nurse/student ratio of 1:500, with no less than one of each per school.
- Institute a Student-Parent Accountability Act which states:
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
- Allow additional use of developmentally appropriate alternative assessment for special education and English Language Learner students.
- Grant elementary students access to a certified specialist in each discipline, library media, art, music, and physical education, for an equal amount of time with a minimum of sixty minutes weekly no less than twice a week. This must not add to the responsibilities of the regular classroom teachers.
- Require all students to complete WV Department of Education mandated testing, but their scores should not be calculated into the overall school score for two academic years if they are returning to the school from a homeschool or non-public school environment.
- Support student accountability for learning, behavior, attendance and test scores.
- Institute programs that will combat drug abuse and the opioid epidemic.
- Limit the percentage of students with an IEP in an inclusion classroom to no more than thirty percent. Performance-based ensemble classes should be excluded from class size limits.
- Support a statewide social worker/student ratio of at least 1:250 and encourage social workers to hold an MSW.
- Increase the funding for and availability of a variety of electives in secondary for both embedded and regular credit options to appeal to student interests.
Section 8: Higher Education
- Protect public and higher education employees against the subcontracting of services with the intent to replace their positions.
- Mandate that all higher education institutions provide tenure and benefits to all employees in lecture positions, including adjunct professors, based on a definition of full-time and half-time employment.
- Require institutions of higher learning to compensate classified employees who fill in for an employee with a higher pay grade to receive the higher pay from the first day of the assignment.
- Require “reduction in force” for higher education classified staff be redefined to include reduction in the number of days or hours an employee works.
- Require higher education employees to be protected by fair and adequate compensation for regular and/or time in excess of their regular work day while protecting employees from efforts to erode tenure.
Section 9: Pro-Public Education Public Policy
- Support a school aid formula that ensures a high-quality educational opportunity for every West Virginia student. The school aid formula should accurately reflect 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.
- Institute a fair, equitable, and progressive tax system in the state in order to provide adequate funding for education.
- Require county boards of education to encumber funds that pay employee salaries and benefits for twelve full months instead of ten months.
- Seek to establish a Public Education Trust Fund that is funded through an assessment of natural resources extraction industries and earmarked for public education.
- Support an independently run government fiscal office to provide accurate, nonpartisan fiscal notes regarding issues before the legislature.
- Actively promote the revision and updating of the school aid formula to include low-incidence disabilities.
- Support a constitutional amendment that would allow higher education employees and employees of the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind the right to serve in public office.
- Allow counties to allocate funds in addition to excess levy funds for local bonuses or benefits.
- Support changes to the school calendar, relating to year round school, etc., that are both educationally sound and provide flexibility for employees.
- Allow county board of education employees to vote on proposed calendars and calendar changes, which change the instructional and employment terms.
- Reinstitute full Faculty Senate days for every month of the school year with half of the Faculty Senate day set aside for curricular planning.
- Grant Department of Education employees continuing contract rights and due process in termination instead of the current “at will” employment status.
- Grant classroom teachers the ability to determine the content of their lesson plans.
- Support any teacher, principal, supervisor, education support professional, 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) so they may make such appearance without any loss of pay (compensated leave time, and/or fear of dismissal or other forms of reprisal). This change in policy would also require local boards of education to pay 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.
- Provide for a half percent or higher severance tax on gas from Marcellus and Utica Shale and other additional new shale gases and to work in conjunction with other organizations to secure passage of such legislation to support retired public school employees’ benefits.
- Support the funding and work of agencies, which reduce historic inequities, including discrimination based on gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability, and those agencies that promote coordination of services to children, i.e. the Human Rights Commission and the Women’s Commission.
- Maintain or increase the qualifications for the state superintendent of schools.
- Recognize professional educators as content-area and pedagogical experts in the establishment of educational standards and curriculum and oppose any legislation that tries to usurp this authority.
- Recognize the constitutional authority of the West Virginia Board of Education and oppose any legislation that would try to usurp this authority and grant it to the legislative branch.
- Supports the use of revenue generated by the legalization of cannabis for use in funding education and/or PEIA as well as addiction centers in WV.
- To support the funding and adoption of Innovation Zone schools as defined in current statute.
- Oppose all of the following:
a. Merit pay
b. Voucher programs
c. Education savings accounts
d. Public or private charter schools
e. Any cuts to the school aid formula
f. So-called “right-to-work” legislation
g. Competency testing for teachers for maintaining licensure
h. The elimination of payroll deduction for union/association dues
i. The legalization of initiative, referendum, and recall in West Virginia
j. Any home school expansion that reduces standards and accountability
k. Any other means of using public resources to promote private or home schools