Legislative Update: Feb. 24, 2012

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Heading into the final two weeks of the session, education bills are beginning to show some movement. Active bills this week include:
HB 4236 is the Governor’s teacher evaluation proposal. AFT-WV leaders and activists have been participating in the teacher evaluation task force that has been meeting for over two years. The resulting pilot project from those discussions serves as the model for the evaluation tool proposed in this bill. The bill spells out the breakdown of the factors used in the evaluation as follows: 80% of the evaluation is based on traditional evaluation methods; 15% of the evaluation is based on flexible measures like goal setting and benchmarking that are determined by the teacher and principal; and 5% is based on school-wide student growth. The specificity in this bill protects employees from any attempts to develop a policy that would call for a high percentage of a teacher evaluation to be based on student test scores. We are hopeful of an end product that ultimately improves the practice of teaching, raises student achievement and is fair to teachers. HB 4236 is on third reading on the floor of the House.
SB 371 is the Governor’s McDowell County Innovation Zone Pilot bill. The bill calls for a county-wide innovation zone pilot program that places emphasis on collaboration between administrators and teachers and service personnel to come up with solutions for some of the challenges that face McDowell County students. Additionally, the bill encourages innovative approaches to education delivery. The bill guarantees employee buy-in by requiring a 2/3 vote. The bill passed the Senate and awaits action by the House.
SB 186 codifies the equity money that teachers and service personnel receive as part of the regular salary scale. Although this is not a pay raise bill, it does prevent the WV Department of Education from lowering equity supplements for personnel. SB 186 has passed the Senate and awaits action in the House Finance Committee.
SB 422 relates to new hires in state administered retirement plans, including the Teachers Retirement System. The bill would reduce pension benefits for new hires by reducing the ratio for trading in unused leave from 1 to 2 to 1 to 1. Additionally, the bill penalizes TRS participants who retire before age 62 (also applies to new hires only.) AFT-WV adamantly opposes this bill, and intends to make it a labor roll-call vote if it makes it to the floor for a vote. Currently, the bill has passed the Senate Pensions Committee and is still awaiting action by the Senate Finance Committee.
HB 4020 recognizes top scoring students on the West test. The bill designates that students who score in the top 10 of all students in the state in each subject area and grade level as “All-State” students. This bill has passed the House and has been sent to the Senate.
HB 4122 relates to alternative teacher certification programs in content areas of critical need. The bill strengthens existing language by raising the threshold on job postings. Currently, the law states that an alternatively certified individual can be employed in a position if no one certified applies for said position. This bill would specify that a job must be posted twice with no applicants before alternative certified individuals can be hired for the position. After being hired, the individual has three years to become permanently certified. Additionally, the bill clarifies that preference shall be given to teachers who hold a valid teaching certificate over teachers going through an alternative program. The bill has passed the House and also passed the Senate Education Committee.
HB 4101 authorizes the teacher-in-residence program in lieu of student teaching. The bill would allow teacher education candidates who have successfully completed all coursework and the basic skills assessment to be employed (in a heavily mentored and supervised structure) by a county in a position where no other certified teacher has applied. For example, a teacher candidate certified in chemistry could opt to teach in a county that lacks a certified chemistry teacher for a year instead of the traditional student teaching experience for a semester. The teacher-in-residence shall be paid a salary and benefits lower than a beginning teacher. Currently, Concord College is the only higher education institution with plans to implement this program if the bill passes. The bill has passed the House and now awaits action by the Senate Education Committee.
HB 4583 changes the dates related to RIF and transfer notification and board action for school employees. The intent of this bill is to prevent RIF notices from being sent to employees before the holidays. The bill changes the date that county boards must vote on proposed RIFs to “on or before March 1.” Employees on transfer would now be notified on or before March 1 and voted on by the county board “on or before April 15.” Additionally, the bill changes the date (from December 1 to January 15) in which an employee must notify their county board of their intent to retire in order for the employee to receive the $500 early notification of retirement bonus. HB 4583 is on third reading in the House. The Senate version, SB 576, contains the exact same language and has passed the Senate Education Committee.
With only two weeks remaining in the session, AFT-WV remains optimistic that we will make some positive gains for education during this session. AFT-WV will keep you updated on the latest legislative news!