CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Board of Education voted Wednesday to get behind some parts of the controversial omnibus education reform bill while rejecting other provisions in the measure.
Members met in emergency session for approximately five hours going over each of the major issues of the bill, SB 451, and then voting to endorse or reject the proposals on an individual basis.
Board members said they felt the need to act quickly with the state Senate discussing the bill in a rare Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday.
“I think that the lightning speed with which this bill has moved has necessitated that we have this emergency session,” said David Perry, president of the state Board of Education.
Both Perry and Dr. Steve Paine, superintendent of schools, said they were not notified of the contents of SB 451 prior to its origination last week in the Senate Education Committee.
“I respect the Legislature and I respect the legislative process and I would ask that they would reciprocate and respect the expertise that exists on this state Board of Education and I have even started to talk about the people that we have as resources,” Paine said.
“The fact that they think that we will not get a reform agenda that would work — we all want higher student achievement levels.”
Paine cited individual BOE member education credentials.
“Look at the Board that we have,” he said. “Now why are we not being consulted when we talk about reform agenda?”
During the meeting, Sarah Stewart, legal counsel for the state Department of Education, detailed the dozens of provisions within the more than 130-page bill.
The charter schools provision generated the majority of questions and comments covering funding, constitutionality and policy. At least one BOE member said the individual proposal warranted “a full review” potentially lasting several days.
Questions about the provision dealing with allowing counties to raise levy rates garnered some additional questions along with the provisions dealing with student transfers, educational savings accounts and student transfers.
Stewart said the proposed bill removes a current requirement that both counties involved approve a transfer.
Overall, “There’s a lot of hidden questions and concerns and we have to find those answers and all we can do to find those answers is to get together and discuss it,” said Miller Hall, vice president of the state Board of Education.
The board voted to support things like pay raises for education workers, paying math teachers more, tax credits for classroom teachers, a change in the unexcused absences policy and increasing the local share cap for county school system funding.
The board voted not to endorse the bill’s nonseverability clause, making central office staff ‘will and pleasure’ employees, not paying teachers for work stoppages, charter schools and education savings accounts.
The board approved two additional motions. One offered by member Tom Campbell calling for the legislature to consider the issues separately not in one bill.
“Education of our children is extremely important. Many people impact the success or failure of that and hearing those various opinions on issues if vital and that’s why we suggest the issues be separated,” Campbell said.
A motion from Perry was approved calling for the creation of a special committee of education and legislative stakeholders to be appointed by state School Superintendent Steve Paine to study the future of education.
“It would be formed to look at a world-class educational system over the next year and come back to the legislature with suggestions,” Perry said.
The board also voted not to take an official position on some issues.
Paine said he backed Governor Jim Justice’s five percent pay raise proposal which dated back to October.
“I had no idea that that pay raise bill would have amended into it or added to it all the different components of this omnibus bill,” Paine said. “Otherwise, we probably could have said something about our concerns at that time, but we didn’t know it was coming.”
On Tuesday, Governor Justice said he wanted his pay raise bill to go through the legislative process without additional measures lumped into it.
“I think it was really important for the Governor to weigh in on this bill and we appreciate his statements,” Paine said in response.
“It’s time for us to figure out how to get together, talk about the issues, negotiate if necessary and let’s move this agenda and this state forward the way he is so capably leading right now.”
The next regular meeting of the state Board of Education is scheduled for Feb. 13.
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).