Legislative Update: Jan. 20, 2012

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   Last week, the 2012 Legislative Session began with Governor Tomblin’s State of the State address on January 11th. While the Governor mentioned a need for competitive teacher salaries, he did not propose a pay raise for education employees.
   “Naturally, we are disappointed that the Governor did not propose a pay raise in his State of the State address. If we truly want to reform education and provide a highly qualified and certified teacher for every classroom, then our priority must be increasing teacher pay,” remarked AFT-WV president Judy Hale after the Governor’s speech last week. “We need to be competitive in salaries with surrounding states to keep our highly qualified, content-certified teachers in WV and we are hopeful that we can work with legislative leaders to garner support for a pay increase this session.”
   However, AFT-WV is pleased that the Governor is addressing the OPEB liability. AFT-WV applauds the Governor’s proposal to remove the responsibility of the OPEB liability from the county school boards with a 24 year pay off plan and dedicated funding stream for the debt. It is imperative that the OPEB issue be resolved during this session and AFT-WV lobbyists have already started meeting with legislative leaders to work out the details of the solution. A bill has not been introduced at press time. 
Other education issues of interest: 
Education Efficiency Audit
The education efficiency audit was a very comprehensive process and AFT-WV hopes the Governor and the Legislature take ample time to thoroughly review the findings before making changes to existing policy or statute. Ultimately, we hope the audit will lead to positive ways to strengthen our education system and improve student achievement, without draining vital resources from our schools.
Teacher Evaluations
Regarding the Governor’s teacher evaluation proposal, our union has been very involved in the issue. AFT-WV leaders and activists have been participating in the teacher evaluation task force that has been meeting for over two years. We are hopeful of an end product that ultimately improves the practice of teaching, raises student achievement and is fair to teachers. A bill has not been introduced at press time.
Reconnecting McDowell
AFT-WV is thrilled that Governor Tomblin is playing a key role in our efforts to revitalize McDowell County. AFT-WV believes allowing the partners of Reconnecting McDowell some flexibility to try new approaches to many of the challenges that exist in the county is a great first step in improving the lives of McDowell children and their families. A bill has not been introduced at press time.
   AFT-WV continues to pursue our legislative priorities (view our Legislative Agenda at www.aftwv.org) and will keep you informed of everything happening this session under the gold dome. It is important to note that it is very early in the session; in fact, few education bills have even been discussed. As usual, the pace will quicken in the coming weeks and AFT-WV will keep you updated on all the latest legislative news.