Charleston, W.Va. – The West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) met in emergency session today to take a stance on the Senate Education Reform Bill (SB451).
“Given the events that have transpired on Senate Bill 451 to date and because of the unprecedented, rapid pace and process this bill is following, I felt it was imperative the State Board of Education weigh in on this matter,” said WVBE President David Perry. “Today’s meeting allowed the constitutional entity charged with overseeing the public education system in this state weigh in on the significant and substantial changes being proposed to West Virginia’s education system.”
West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine echoed President Perry’s comments at the beginning of today’s meeting.
“Our State education leaders haven’t had the opportunity to give input into this monumental bill and it is absolutely necessary to have those frank discussions and debates with individuals inside our state,” Paine said. “I fully support Governor Justice’s stance that each item contained in Senate Bill 451 be fairly vetted individually and I do not believe the appropriate level of discussion can happen in a one to two-day timeframe. Additionally, I am very concerned that several measures within this bill have the potential to accelerate school closures and consolidations and weaken community schools in our state.”
The WVBE considered each item contained within SB451 and took action on each item individually.
The WVBE voted to endorse the following sections of SB451:
Tax Credit (§11-21-25) Provides up to $250 annual tax credit to classroom teacher at public or private school for supplementary education materials or professional development costs.
Student Unexcused Absences (§18-8-4) Removes the requirement to send a written notice to a parent/guardian when a student receives 3 and 5 unexcused absences and instead requires the school to make “meaningful contact” with the parent/guardian upon 3 and 5 unexcused absences.
Professional Student Support Personnel (§18-9A-2) Expands the statutory definition of “professional student support personnel” from only nurses and counselors to include any professional personnel providing direct social and emotional student support services to students (e.g., social workers, psychologists; Communities in Schools site coordinator, etc.).
1,400 Enrollment Floor (§18-9A-2) Sets a net student enrollment floor of 1,400 students for purposes of a county’s basic foundation program. Currently, this will impact 11 counties whose net enrollment is currently below 1,400 students.
Step 5 Funding (§18-9A-8) Increases Step 5 funding for Professional Student Support Personnel by removing the current statutory cap and inserts a 4.70 ratio of per 1,000 students.
Step 6a Funding (§18-9A-19) Increases Step 6a funding for current operations by 1%.
Local Share Cap (§18-9A-12) Places a cap on every county’s local share amount equal to the county’s local share amount in FY16. If a county’s local share amount increases from the FY16 amount, the county will keep those additional funds. Currently, this modification would affect 36 counties.
Teacher Salary Increases (§18A-4-2) Provides a 5% pay raise to classroom teachers (includes professional student support personnel in Step 5).
Supplement for Math Teachers (§18A-4-2) For purposes of the salary schedule, provides three additional years of experience for certified math teachers that teach math at least 60% of the time.
Math Teacher Incentive (§18A-4-2d) Provides a one-time, $2,000 supplement to middle and high school math teachers that complete a specialized math course and teach math at least 60% of the time.
County Salary Supplement (§18A-4-5a) Allows county Boards of Education to provide salary supplements to teachers that are certified to and do teach in a critical need and shortage subject, teach in schools in remote geographic locations or teach in locations that have experienced high rates of turnover in experience teachers.
School Service Personnel Salary Increase (§18A-4-8a) Provides a 5% pay raise to school service personnel.
Underwood-Smith Scholarship (§18C-4-1, et seq) Changes the focus of the scholarship program to students intending to pursue teaching careers in WV in math, science or special education at the elementary, middle or secondary level and provides scholarship recipients with additional academic support and training for math, science, or special education mentors, starting in the recipient’s freshman year and continuing until they receive a degree.
West Virginia Board of Risk and Insurance Management (BRIM) Coverage (§29-12-5a) Requires county Board of Education to annually notify its employees in writing about applicable coverage provided by BRIM.
The WVBE voted to endorse the following sections of SB451, with provisions as noted below:
Re-incentive Personal Days (§5-16-13) For members of the Teachers’ Retirement System on or after July 1, 2019, allows 10 days of accrued leave to be converted to $500. (The WVBE voted that this measure also include School Service Personnel).
Levy Rates (§11-8-6f) Allows county Board of Education to vote annually to increase their maximum levy rate up to a specific statutory maximum amount. (The WVBE endorsed this measure provided that no school district receive a loss in state funding).
School Counselors (§18-5-18b) Removes the percentages of counselor time that is to be spend on administrative duties and clarifies that counselors main responsibility is to provide direct counseling services to students and supporting students with their academic, social and emotional needs. (The WVBE endorsed this measure provided that no less than 75% of counselors’ time be spent counseling students).
Student Promotion (§18-5-46) Declares that teacher’s recommendation on whether a student to advance to the next grade level shall be primary consideration when making that determination. (The WVBE endorsed this measure amending the language to say “important consideration” rather than “primary consideration.”)
The WVBE voted not to endorse the following sections of SB451:
Nonseverability Clause (§18-1-5) Purports to declare that if any part of the “Act” (which presumably is the Bill) is struck down by the legal system, then all other parts of the bill will revert back to current language.
Open Enrollment/Student Transfers (§18-5-16) Revises the inter-county transfer process and authorizes a county board of education to establish an open enrollment policy.
Central Office Staff (§18-5-32) Changes the employment status of central office staff (“central office administrators, supervisors and directors”) from a continuing contract status to will-and-pleasure of the county Superintendent and may be removed by the county Superintendent upon approval by the county Board of Education.
Strikes/Work Stoppages (§18-5-45a) Prohibits “banked time” from being used to make-up days where school was closed due to a strike or work stoppage. When a work stoppage causes the county superintendent to close school, the county Board of Education must withhold employee pay for each day closed due to work stoppage and interscholastic athletic events cannot be held on days that school was closed due to work stoppage.
Charter Schools (§18-5G-1, et seq) Allows for the establishment of public charter schools.
Education Savings Account (§18-31-1, et seq) Establishes Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which are accounts funded by the state to eligible students to pay qualifying education expenses.
Equity Payment (§18A-4-5) Changes the statutory equity payment to teachers and school service personnel to a state supplement.
Payroll Protection (§18A-4-9) Before dues to an employee organization providing representation, lobbying or other employee related service may be automatically deducted from a county Board of Education employee, the employee must submit an annual request authorizing the deduction.
The WVBE voted to take no position on the following sections of SB451:
Reductions in Force (RIF) (§18A-4-7a) Changes the current statutory requirement that RIF decisions be based on seniority and instead requires that RIF decisions be based on qualifications. The employee that is least qualified is the employee that is to be RIF’ed.
Leave Accrual (§18A-4-10) Changes when personal leave is accrued by county Board of Education employees from the beginning of the employment term to on the last working day of each month in the employment term. Employees currently accrue 15 days at the beginning of the employment term and under the revised language, would accrue 1.5 days at the end of each month (10 months total).
The WVBE also voted that all items contained within SB451 be considered in separate pieces of legislation and that today’s meeting outcomes be communicated to the Senate President, Speaker of the House, Education Committee Chairs, Minority Leaders and Governor Justice.
Finally, the WVBE voted to create a commission made up of education stakeholder organizations along with legislative leadership to study education throughout the next year and make recommendations ahead of the next legislative session.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the WVBE is on February 13, 2019.