6:00: Morning News

Supporters deny claims change to teacher hiring bill would ‘gut’ education reform

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A teacher hiring bill that critics claim will reverse key parts of the 2013 education reform bill will be up for second reading, meaning possible amendments, in the state House of Delegates on Thursday.

Members of the House Education Committee approved the reworked bill earlier this week and sent it to the House floor despite opposition from Dr. James Phares, state superintendent of schools, among many others.

Those opponents argued the reform legislation gave teachers and principals more of a voice in the teacher hiring process, with makes seniority one of nine total factors weighed, and this new proposed bill would change that.

“From teachers, principals and superintendents, they believe that the system is working well,” said Phares.  “They get to make the basic decision of who they want on their team to work with their students.”

The House Education Committee amendment would require teachers and principals to document their recommendations for hires, using a graph with the nine criteria, at times when all of those stakeholders agree on the hire.

“All we want is documentation so that we can say, ‘This is how the process works and this is why the process works,'” said Christine Campbell, West Virginia American Federation of Teachers president.

Bob Brown, assistant to the national president for the American Federation of Teachers, agreed.

“It’s a transparency issue.  We are not doing anything to undo the incredible piece of legislation that was passed last year,” he said.  “The flexibility’s still there, the involvement by the faculty senate and the principals is still there.  We think, frankly, this is just a good government amendment.”

Overall, HB 4394 would make changes to ensure that positions filled by retirees and not fully qualified teachers are posted statewide so they’re easily available to new graduates and reduction in force teachers who are seeking employment; allow capable teachers to more easily obtain certification in additional content areas; ensure teachers and principals consider certain applicant qualifications for employment; and limit the movement of professional personnel to other counties once the instructional year has started.

The House could approve the bill before the end of the week, sending it on to the state Senate with three weeks left in the 2014 Regular Legislative Session.

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