Update on SB 451 from AFT-WV President Fred Albert (2-14-19)

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Update on SB 451, what happens next in the process, and our next steps (2-14-19)
 
SB 451 passed the House today overwhelmingly in a 71-29 vote. The version that the House amended and passed is drastically different from the version passed by the Senate.  Before we go any further, let me assure you that I am mindful of the direction given to us by the county leadership of the three organizations in terms of what would trigger a strike.  That option to strike continue to be on the table. 
 
That said, below is a quick outline of the major components or changes in the House bill:
• 5 % pay increase for teachers and service personnel
• $1000 attendance bonus for teachers and service personnel if not absent more than 4 days
• $250 tax credit for school supplies for teachers and service personnel
• $24 million for more school support personnel (social workers, psychologists, etc)
• Employees will be paid during work stoppage and extracurricular activities can take place
• Teacher input on student promotion
• No paycheck protection provision
• No Education Savings Accounts
• Non-severability clause removed
• $5 million for Innovation Zones
• Law enforcement officer for each school
• Provision to make county administrators at-will employees was deleted
• Seniority rights are preserved in the RIF process.
• The charter schools provision is drastically different from the Senate’s version. While the Senate bill contained unlimited charter schools ran by outside non-profits with no accountability or oversight by the local BOE, the House version is limited to 2 public charter pilot schools (statewide.) These pilot programs would be under the control of the county Board of Education in which the school is located. These pilots must be existing public schools; starting a new school in a vacant or new building cannot occur. Before a pilot can be approved, the initiative would have to be approved by a majority of the staff and parents of that school in separate votes. Essentially, the school staff decides if their school will be a pilot. This requirement renders the charter language practically meaningless.  
 
Obviously, the House bill is significantly improved from the Senate version. There are several positive things in the bill for employees and students. It is by no means perfect or everything we wanted, but the political reality is we do not have a majority in either chamber to kill the bill. Elections have consequences, and we must deal with those now.  
 
What happens next in process? 
By no means is the process over….or even close to it. The bill will be communicated to the Senate, likely tomorrow.  
 
Because the bill passed by the House is different than the version the Senate passed, there are several options for the Senate leadership:
• Concur with the House changes; House version goes to the Governor’s desk 
• Concur with further amendments; then it would go back to the full House for a vote 
• Refuse the House changes, bill dies
• Refuse the House changes; go to conference committee  
 
It is unlikely the Senate President will accept the House version of the bill and the bill will go to a conference committee.
 
Here’s how that works:
• The Senate President and House Speaker each appoint either 3 or 5 members to be on the conference committee. 
• This committee tries to come up with a compromise version of the bill. If a compromise is reached on the committee, this version goes back for a vote before the full Senate and the House. 
• Given the overwhelming majority that the House’s version passed in that chamber, as well as the failures of multiple amendments during second reading to add ESAs and expand charter schools, it would be unlikely for the majority of the House to move much on these issues. Additionally, we believe the Senate will object to the increased fiscal note on the House version. 
• If the compromise version fails in either chamber, the bill is dead.  If the compromise version passes both chambers, the Governor can still veto the bill.   
 
It is important to note that stand alone pay raise bills (SB 445 and HB 2730) still exist in both chambers.  
 
Our next steps: 
First and foremost, don’t get your information from third-party social media sites. The union has not “sold you out.” Please understand that we are not negotiating a contract; we do not enjoy the luxury of collective bargaining in WV. We are operating in a political environment where we do not have the majority in either the House or the Senate.  
 
Additionally, several county superintendents have already indicated they would keep schools open during a potential work stoppage. This presents a completely different scenario than last year with serious legal and financial consequences for our members. If schools are open during a work stoppage, employees would not be paid, service personnel who do not report to work would have a break in seniority and it is likely injunctions would be filed. As your union, we have an obligation to consider these factors as we move forward.  
 
The three organizations have continually strategized over every possible scenario and outcome. There are plans and contingencies in place for each potential outcome. Each scenario has its own distinct timing regarding potential actions. We understand everyone is anxious; pleased be assured that every decision made is in the hopes of maximizing the good and mitigating the bad in this bill for our members.  While it may be easy to push for immediate action or question what is happening, please know that every decision and action that occurs --and that includes waiting for the right moment to act-- is made with our member’s best interests in mind.  
 
It’s important to note that there are those who are trying to divide us in order to defeat our strategy. While it’s easy to get caught up in emotion, we must remain calm and united. Please trust in your leaders, as there is a reason for everything we are doing.  
 
In unity,  
Fred Albert