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Tuesday January 15, 2019

The Senate Education Committee met and passed the only bill on their agenda today.

Senate Bill One aims to make people workforce ready by providing free tuition at technical and two-year colleges. This bill is sponsored by Senate President Mitch Carmichael and supported by the governor. It is estimated that this bill will cost an additional $7 million dollars. It has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

Tomorrow the House Finance Committee will meet at 9 AM. No agenda has been posted yet. The House Education Committee will meet at 2:30 PM and has two bills on their agenda.

House Bill 2378 is sponsored by Paul Espinosa. It relates to making some language changes dealing with revoking a teaching certificate.

House Bill 2095 is sponsored by Mark Dean. It would allow 12th grade students in transitional program classes to take periodic exams to measure progress without taking the SAT again.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

The beginning of the Legislative session is typically slow as bills are introduced, and committees are brought up to speed. This year is no different.

Today the House Finance Committee heard reports from the Higher Education Policy Commission and a report on Community Colleges. During the reports they were presented with some interesting facts:

  • Last year saw over 18,000 graduates from our institutions – a record number
  • A breakdown of student demographics at 4-year institutions
    • 38% are older than 25
    • 42% live at or near the poverty level
    • 58% work 20+ hours a week outside of school
    • 26% are parents
  • Both 4 and 6-year graduation rates are up as well as retention rates
  • Average tuition costs at a state public 4-year institution
    • Nationally - $9,970
    • SREB      - $9,515
    • WV - $7,887
  • Average tuition at our state community colleges - $4,400
  • Our community colleges have 662 partnerships with businesses to train their workforce
  • Since 1995, over 147,000 have earned credit at our community colleges
  • Average age of a community college student is 29 years. 92% of the students are WV residents

It is estimated to cost an additional $7 million to provide free tuition to all community college students. When Senate Education meets on Tuesday they are expected to discuss SB 1 – free community college tuition. SB 1 is supported by the Governor and Senator Carmichael.

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January 11, 2019

State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine gave a report to the House Education committee this morning.  Some of the highlights include:

  • WV is 1st in the nation in students who participate in breakfast at school
  • WV is 17th in the nation per capita in the percentage of Nationally Board Certified Teachers
  • WV is in the top 5 in the nation in our graduation rate. We are now at 90.2%
  • WV’s lower income students are scoring in the top 10 nationally when compared to similarly situated students in other states

Dr. Paine touched on our student’s perceived low scores on national tests. Paine stated that one of the stronger influences on student test scores is the academic attainment of the parents. WV ranks 50th in the nation in the % of adults age 25-65 with a bachelor’s degree.

Dr. Paine also explained the priorities of the WVDE:

  • To increase math scores and the overall achievement for students of all grades
  • To lower the absent rates of students
  • To fund computer science courses in all high schools. This would make WV the first state in the nation to do so.
  • To support workforce readiness programs
  • To look at alternative education programs/options for elementary students

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Below is the text of a video recorded by WVEA President Dale Lee following the State of the State address by Governor Justice. It recaps the highlights of the Governor’s speech as well as a report on Tuesday’s meeting of the PEIA Task Force.

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Hello. I’m WVEA President Dale Lee and I am recording this video on Wednesday evening after returning from the capitol and listening to Governor Justice’s State of the State address.

I wanted to give you just a brief update on tonight’s Address and yesterday’s meeting of the PEIA Task Force. Let’s start with tonight and keep in mind that that State of the State Addresses are typically short on specific details.

Governor Justice began his speech by proclaiming "no new taxes and a goal of achieving significant tax cuts during the session.

Governor Justice reiterated some things he stated previously and said he wants to make education the centerpiece of our state. Those include a 5% salary increase for all education and public employees and placing $150 million dollars into PEIA.

He challenged the WVDE to: improve math scores, lower absenteeism, have computer science classes in every high school, and revisit the school aid formula. The governor also wants to increase salaries of math, science and special ed teachers in order to improve student performance; bank sick leave days; allow the promise scholarship to be used for vocational education; and put $5 million in the budget to expand the Communities in Schools program. 

Although the governor did not mention certain issues, we know that charter schools, education savings accounts, reducing the business inventory tax and others things that would harm our students and public schools are on the Republican legislative leader's agenda.

On Tuesday at the PEIA Task Force committee meeting, the committee took the first step towards the long-term stabilization of PEIA by proposing a series of changes in the 80/20 statute for any new costs incurred by the plan.

The first step was to suggest language changes removing the hard 80/20 requirement and have the state pay at least 80% and the employees pay no more than 20%.

A second proposal allows for deductibles, copays, out-of-pocket max etc. to count toward the calculation of the employee’s 20% share. Currently the 20% must be in the form of premiums and the new proposal provides flexibility in the 20% calculation.

And finally, the 80/20 will only be used in calculating the growth in the plan. The proposal calls for each year there is an increase in the projected expenditures of PEIA that the Legislature must be responsible for appropriating and funding at least 80% of that growth.

This proposal would force the legislature to increase appropriations to PEIA and they would no longer be able to go years without adding additional money and passing the cost on to employees as they have done in the past. As recently as 2017 the legislature appropriated no additional money and participants had to make up the entire $46 million shortfall in the plan.

As Perry Bryant, former executive director for WV’s for Affordable Health Care, stated …These changes are going to provide a much more stable, secure health insurance benefit than we’ve had in the past. These proposals are significant and starts getting us to the fix of PEIA and a long-term funding solution.

Keep in mind that they are just proposals to the Legislature at this point. A bill will have to be drafted that incorporates those changes and then must be passed by the legislature. We will certainly let you know when that bill is drafted and the exact language it contains.

Each year hundreds of bills are introduced. Some of them would be good for public education and some could have very negative impacts. Don’t become alarmed or excited over each bill that is introduced and assigned a number.

The vast majority of those bills will never be placed on a committee agenda or show any movement during the session. The bills that actually make it on a committee agenda are the ones we need to be most concerned about because they are being given serious consideration and will most likely come up for a vote.

WVEA keeps up with the committees and their agendas each day. We have lobbyists at the capitol every day during the session covering committee meetings and talking to legislators and we will keep you abreast of bills that are showing movement and ask you to become involved as those bills gain traction.

In addition to our regular lobbyists, we are asking that each county send a delegation on their assigned day to come to Charleston and talk to legislators. WVEA has daily briefings at 9 am each morning at our headquarters so stop by our office to get briefed before heading to the capitol.

You will find legislative contact information and sample talking points on the WVEA website – www.wvea.org. You can keep informed throughout the Legislative session by visiting the WVEA Website and our various social media accounts. We post daily Lobbyline updates and a weekly Legislative Update each Friday.

There are still 59 days left in the session and we know we will see both good and bad legislation proposed. So, keep engaged and let’s make a positive difference in our profession and our public schools.  

I’ll be talking to you soon. Good night.