Legislative Update: Jan. 27, 2012

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Several education bills were introduced during the second full week of the 2012 legislative session while talks continued on the two big ticket items: salary and OPEB. As this update was being printed, AFT-WV president Judy Hale and AFT-WV lobbyists were meeting once again with representatives from the Governor’s office on Friday afternoon (Jan. 27th) to iron out details of a proposed OPEB bill.

Salaries

While no pay raise bill has been introduced as of press time, AFT-WV leaders and lobbyists are meeting constantly with legislative leaders to push for a salary increase for education employees during this session and identify money within the budget to fund a salary increase. AFT-WV believes a salary increase is imperative to compete with neighboring states to attract and retain highly-qualified content-certified teachers for our students.

OPEB Liability

Although it has been identified as a top priority by the Governor and legislative leaders, a bill addressing the OPEB liability has not been introduced at this time. AFT-WV is meeting regularly with legislative leaders to work out the details of the solution that would remove the responsibility of the OPEB liability from the county school boards with a 24 year pay off plan. Additionally, stakeholders and legislators are also working to identify a dedicated funding stream for the debt. This is a “must solve” issue for the 2012 session!

Teacher Evaluations

At the request of the Governor, SB 372 (companion bill is HB 4236) was introduced and calls for the expansion of the teacher evaluation pilot program. The bill would mandate that the pilot program be implemented in every WV school as the official evaluation tool by the 2013-14 school year. At this point, the lobbyists remain vigilant to ensure an end product that improves the practice of teaching, raises student achievement and is fair to teachers.

Digital Learning

Senate Bill 103 would require the state Board of Education to establish a digital learning program that would incorporate ten guidelines --such as student access, eligibility and personalized learning--into a policy. These ten recommendations for digital learning are derived from the Digital Learning Council, a national education organization headed by former WV Governor Bob Wise and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Reconnecting McDowell

SB 371 (HB 4235) was introduced and relates to the Reconnecting McDowell partnership, an AFT driven rural school and community reform project. The bill calls for creating pilot programs that would provide flexibility to assist students and schools in a declared state of emergency. This bill would allow the partners of Reconnecting McDowell to explore innovative solutions to many of the pressing problems in McDowell County.

AFT-WV continues to pursue our legislative priorities (view our Legislative Agenda at www.aftwv.org) and lobby for the issues that matter most to our members. We anticipate that education issues will become a bigger part of the legislative discussions in the coming weeks and AFT-WV will keep you updated on the latest legislative news.