2011 Legislative Session: Final Update

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2011 Legislative Session: Final Update

AFT-WV was successful in transforming acting Governor Tomblin’s proposal of a one-time $800 bonus into a permanent salary increase. Pending the governor’s signature on HB 2879, teachers will receive an across-the-board salary increase of $1488. Additionally, all teachers with up to 35 years of experience will receive their annual experience increment of no less than $587 a year, bringing the approximate increase for most teachers to $2075. We anticipate a 2% pay increase for higher education and public employees to be included in the budget, with specifics such as salary floors and/or ceilings to be determined this week. While AFT-WV would have liked to have made greater gains in salary this year, we feel this is a pretty good start to improve salaries, especially taking the current economic environment into consideration. As always we will continue to fight for additional salary increases when the 2012 legislative session convenes next year.

During the last week of the session, the House Finance Committee amended SB 616 (better known as the OPEB bill) to dedicate a substantial amount of money toward retiree benefits. Specifically, the amendment stated that $250 million would be transferred from the Rainy Day Fund into the OPEB Trust Fund on July 1, 2011. Also beginning in 2016, the amendment specified that $95.4 million would be placed in the trust each year until the OPEB liability is funded. The House Finance Committee amendment also detailed cost containment measures that the PEIA director would implement for future cost savings.

On the final day of the session, the House passed the bill, with the full support of AFT-WV. However, the Senate, led by acting Governor Tomblin, would not agree to the provision to obtain funds from the Rainy Day Fund and the bill died. The issue may be addressed in a future special session, however AFT-WV maintains its position that any solution should preserve retiree benefits and stabilize PEIA premiums.

HB 3116 was passed and awaits the governor’s signature. This bill tightens up language in a bill passed last year to allow schools that meet AYP (or have achieved an accreditation status of distinction or exemplary) to opt out of assessments not required by state or federal law or state board of education policy. This bill simplifies the process and allows the school curriculum team to determine what assessments will be used in their school, as long as the school met the requirements specified above in the previous year. Assessments not required by state or federal law or state board policy include techSteps, Acuity, ACT Explore, ACT Plan, Riverdeep and others.

HB 3225 extends anti-bullying policies off campus to include school buses and bus stops. It also expands the current law to cover cyber bullying, such as using text messages, e-mail or postings on social networking sites under certain circumstances. The bill has passed and awaits the governor’s signature.

SB 255 has been signed by the governor, allowing the $55 million of federal stimulus money, known as the Education Jobs Fund, to be released to the county school boards for use for tutoring, summer school programs, etc. The funds can also be used to retain personnel to lower class size for our schools.

HB 2556, which will reset the expiration date of provisions that allow the employment of retired teachers as substitutes beyond the post-retirement employment limit for critical need content areas, has been signed by the governor. The bill is effective from passage.

SB 467 was AFT-WV's bill to stop the infringement upon a teacher's planning period time for meetings. Originally, SB 467 contained strong language to keep teachers from being forced to give up their planning time without their consent. It was amended on the floor of the Senate to require record keeping and reporting by principals of duties assigned to a teacher during planning. Principals would then be required to report the information to their county superintendent, who in turn reports to the state and the legislature. The bill passed the Senate but unfortunately died in the House Education Committee as a result of opposition by the school superintendents.

House Concurrent Resolution 83 calls for the education efficiency audits to be conducted and the results to be reported back to the Legislature. HCR 83 was approved by the full House of Delegates.

SB 434 called for the reclassification of school service personnel positions in state law, modernizing the current classifications from 86 job titles down to 63. Additionally, the bill called for a career ladder for school cooks, which is recommended by the federal Healthy Schools regulations. SB 434 died in the Senate Finance Committee.

Committee Sub. For HB 2757, calling for some form of annual evaluation for all teachers, did not pass. The House and Senate could not reach agreement on the teacher evaluation issue.

SB 229 would have provided for student loan repayment assistance with the purpose of attracting and retaining certified math and science teachers in areas of critical need. SB 229 passed the Senate but died in the House Education Committee.

SB 330 deals with a multitude of higher education issues, including fulfilling pay levels included in a state-determined salary schedule for classified staff and capping the percentage of non-classified staff that any institution can employ at 20%, or up to 25% with approval from the appropriate governing agency. Additionally, the bill grants flexibility for institutions to increase tuition without HEPC approval as long the tuition increases do not exceed 5%. The bill passed and now awaits the governor’s signature.

HB 2648, a bill that would increase the teacher’s portion of faculty senate allotment to $100, was passed. The bill awaits the governor’s signature.

SB 228 addresses dropout prevention and recovery in West Virginia. This bill encourages schools and districts to partner with parents, elected officials, civic and community groups and technical and higher education institutions to find ways to prevent students from dropping out of school and re-enroll those who have dropped out.

SB 373 will allow the School Building Authority to build comprehensive middle schools that include vocation programs for the middle school level. The bill passed and awaits the governor’s signature.

SB 592 will require every school to have a crisis response plan. The state board of education and Homeland Security will make sample plans available for schools to model. The bill passed and awaits the governor’s signature.

HB 3171 would have required that 3 of the 18 required continuing education hours be devoted to training related to the Safe Schools Act. Topics would have included bullying, intimidation, harassment and related content. The bill passed the House but died in the Senate Finance Committee.