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Overview

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March 7, 2014 - Volume 34 Issue 17

 

“Journalism is literature in a hurry.” – Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), British poet and cultural critic.

 

 

By Jim Wallace

At least two bills of interest to the West Virginia School Board Association appear to be headed to conference committees to work out differences between versions passed by the House of Delegates and the Senate.

One of them is House Bill 4619, which would authorize the state school board to designate eight county school systems as Innovation School Districts through a competitive application process. Two school systems each could be selected from each of the four student population density categories (sparse, low, medium and high). Each district would be required to develop a plan for the innovations it seeks to implement and that plan would have to be approved at the local level. If selected by the state board, the district could seek waivers of statutes, policies, rules and interpretations over a five-year period as it would progress with implementation of its plan.

Greg Prudich, vice president of the WVSBA and president of the Mercer County school board, led the association’s presentation to legislators of the proposal to have not just Innovation Zones for particular schools but to permit such zones to encompass entire districts. The legislature already had essentially turned McDowell County into an Innovation District as part of efforts to overcome many problems there.

The House passed the bill on February 26, but when it got to the Senate, the Education Committee changed it. As Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, explained, the Senate version would handle the Innovation Districts in two batches. It would allow four counties, one from each population density category, to become Innovation Districts on July 1, 2015, and four more to do so on July 1, 2016.

“What the bill is trying to do is make sure that not just the large counties would apply and they would be awarded,” Plymale said. “This is to make sure that we do at least one in every category outlined.”

The Senate Education Committee also decided to remove a provision for establishment of entrepreneurship programs. “I don’t know that it fits in with the bill on Innovation [Districts],” Plymale said. “I think this is something we should do, but why would we put it in the Innovation Zone bill.”

“I like that there’s more local control and more autonomy at the local level.” – Sen. Mitch Carmichael

Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said about the Innovation District proposal, “I like that there’s more local control and more autonomy at the local level.”

Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, wanted to know if districts like the one in his home county that have been taken over by the state school board would be eligible to become Innovation Districts. He was pleased to hear they would be as long as they didn’t have a financial deficit. “I think sometimes we think of innovation as being the way for good schools to become excellent schools, but I think it also is an opportunity for school systems that perhaps struggle to do, too,” he said.

The Senate voted 33 to nothing on Thursday to approve its version of House Bill 4619, but later in the day, the House refused to accept the Senate changes. Thus, it looks as though a joint House-Senate conference committee will have to resolve the differences. Sources say the sticking point is that entrepreneurship provision that was added to the bill in an amendment proposed on the floor of the House on February 25 by House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour, and Vice Chairman David Perry, D-Fayette. That amendment says:

When designating innovation zones under these provisions following the amendment and reenactment of this section by the Legislature at its regular session 2014, and for each of the four succeeding school years, the state board shall establish a priority for applications that include the establishment of entrepreneurship education programs as a curricular offering for students. To qualify under this priority, the program strategy must include the active involvement of one or more partners from the business community in program delivery.

The House and Senate negotiators have until Saturday evening to work out a common version of the bill.

 

Bill would remove penalty for school districts.

Another piece of legislation that has come out in different forms in the House and Senate would change a current law that penalizes school district with reduced state aid when the assessors in their counties fall short of ensuring that real property assessments are at least 54 percent of market value. Although the legislature passed that law several years ago, its provisions penalizing school districts are just now taking effect. Lincoln, Monongalia and Wyoming counties stand to lose state aid this year unless the law is changed.

The Senate passed one version of the bill in the form of Senate Bill 432, while the House passed its version in House Bill 4002. For a bill to become law, both houses must pass exactly the same version. The major difference between the two bills is that the House version would remove the current penalties that would be imposed when assessors come out with property assessments that are too low, while the Senate version instead would delay the penalties to give the assessors another year to get assessments to meet the 54 percent threshold. A school board would be penalized only if the target were missed for two consecutive years.

On Thursday, the Senate Education Committee took up House Bill 4002, removed all of its provisions and inserted the provisions of Senate Bill 432. It’s what is known at the legislature as a strike-and-insert amendment. Essentially, it is Senate Bill 432 going under the name of House Bill 4002. The full Senate then suspended rules requiring a bill to be read on the Senate floor on three separate days and passed the revised House Bill 4002 Thursday evening on a vote of 32 to nothing.

“So our bill will go over [to the House],” Plymale told his fellow senators. “The reason we’re wanting to do this [is] we would like to get to conference on this bill, because there are particularly three counties that are in noncompliance, and this bill will help them in respect to that. That would be Monongalia, Wyoming and Lincoln counties.”

But the Senate wasn’t the first to use a strike-and-insert amendment for this legislation. The House already had taken its provisions from House Bill 4002 and put them into Senate Bill 432. There is one other provision in the House version that wasn’t in the Senate version. That provision would adopt the proposal from Gov. Tomblin that would drop from 5 percent to 4 percent the amount of allowance county boards get when calculating how much their local share would be.

When the House Finance Committee dealt with the bill, it was suggested that, instead of penalizing school districts for assessors’ problems, the legislature instead should take money away from a 2 percent fund the assessors have to help maintain their offices. Delegate Larry Williams, D-Preston, said he would rather do that than use children’s education as a tool to punish the assessor. “They should be doing their job, but we don’t need to put it on the backs of the students and the school system in each county,” he said.

“I do not think our boards of education should be punished for what assessors have done or not done.” – Delegate Linda Phillips

Delegate Linda Phillips, D-Wyoming, said the legislature needs to pass a permanent solution to the problem. “I do not think our boards of education should be punished for what assessors have done or not done,” she said. “We have talked about this before. Through no mistakes, the assessors cannot keep up with the growth [in some counties].”

Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, said another problem with the current law is that it uses the sales data ratio to measure how well assessors do their jobs. “We talk about sometimes whether the assessor is doing his job or not doing his job – he or she – but if there is ever a solution found for this, I’m not sure the sales data ratio is the best measurement to determine whether the assessor’s doing his job,” he said. “There are, and can be, extenuating or extraordinary circumstances that an assessor would fall outside that ratio where they need to hit, and it’s not because they didn’t do their job but because there are growth issues or other extraordinary situations. But certainly, we need to separate it from the schools.”

Echoing those sentiments, Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell, said “I, too, believe we need to move beyond the school board. I know, when you have a new assessor that’s just been elected and they have the best intentions and they come and realize that things hadn’t been done in their county as they should have been done, it’s difficult to dig out from that in a short period of time. So I agree that we should not be punishing the schools.”

Senate Bill 432 with the House version of the bill inserted was scheduled to receive the second of its three readings on the House floor today. Its passage would mean that the negotiators on the expected House-Senate conference committee could choose to call a final, agree-upon bill either House Bill 4002 or Senate Bill 432, but they would have to settle on one version or the other or a compromise between the two before midnight Saturday evening if the legislation is to be passed this session.

 

Data bill is on track for passage.

Another bill that got through the Senate Education Committee Thursday is House Bill 4316, which would create the Student Data Accessibility, Transparency and Accountability Act. It would require the Department of Education to make publicly available an inventory and index of all data elements with definitions of individual student data fields currently in the statewide longitudinal data system. The Department of Education also would be required to create a data security plan, ensuring compliance with federal and state data privacy laws and policies. Certain contracts would be required to include privacy and security provisions. The department would have to have a data governance manager (which it already does) whose primary mission includes ensuring department-wide compliance with all privacy laws and regulations. The bill would add new annual security and privacy requirements for reporting to the governor and legislature.

The House passed the bill on a 95-2 vote on February 26, but only after it had gone through much debate in committees and on the House floor, because several delegates were concerned about the security of student data. In the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, expressed concern about a provision allowing the Education Department to contract with companies to handle data about students.

Carla Howe, data governance manager for the department, told her that provision is needed to allow contractors to handle certain functions such as the statewide assessment test, which currently is the WESTEST. The assessment contractor for the WESTEST is CTB/McGraw-Hill, which is based in California. Howe said the bill’s provisions would allow the department to enter into such contracts with privacy provisions in place.

But Boley wasn’t sure about the wording of the bill. “You could make your own privacy provisions,” she said. “That means the information may not be protected.”

“No, the information is consistently protected,” Howe insisted.

“We do not ever share student-level information with U.S. Ed. nor would we permit or allow anyone with whom we worked to do so.” – Carla Howe

Then Boley expressed concern that West Virginia has contracted with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the consortium has contracted with U.S. Department of Education. Howe explained that the state has contracted with the consortium, because the Smarter Balanced Assessment will take the place of the WESTEST next year and the consortium will take the place of CTB in reporting the results. “We do not ever share student-level information with U.S. Ed. nor would we permit or allow anyone with whom we worked to do so,” she said.

Boley then pointed out that the bill says the state could share student-level information with researchers. Howe explained that the data in that provision would be different than the data used in the state’s longitudinal data system.

“We also work with, and our schools work with, grade book vendors, for example,” she said. “They want an electronic grade book. Well, that vendor needs to know the student’s name and their ID number and all of that, to be able to populate that on behalf of the school. So in that sense, it would be that type of information, but it’s to provide that service, and there is a very specific contract. We have templates in place that they’re working again as an agent of the state. They must adhere to these privacy guidelines, and they are not to share nor are they owners of the data. They are just acting as agents to build that system on our behalf for our folks in the schools.”

Still, Boley wanted to know how she could assure her constituents that data about students will be secure.

“If we were to enter into a contract, an agreement, with a researcher, even in the event that it were a student-level report, meaning that each row pertained to a particular individual, the identification of that individual is stripped away,” Howe said. “It is a de-identified file. So that student would not be able to be identified.”

Sometimes it is necessary to have that student-level data to answer larger policy questions, she said. “This bill – what it does is strengthens the audit capacity, the privacy and the role that I play to ensure that those things are staying secure,” Howe said.

The Senate Education Committee then approved the bill on Thursday, but it amended it to add definitions for “effective computing” and the “Fair Information Practice Principles.” If the Senate would pass that version of the bill, it would have to go back to the House for agreement with those changes. The full Senate gave the bill the first of its three readings Thursday evening, setting it up for second reading today.

 

Other bills progress.

Another bill to get the approval of the Senate Education Committee and a first reading on the floor of the Senate Thursday is House Bill 4608. Its purpose is to define dyslexia and dyscalculia in accordance with the international standards. It also requires the state school board to ensure that all students receive the appropriate screenings, evaluations and assessments. The board would have to ensure that any individualized education program (IEP) dealing with dyslexia or dyscalculia is consistent with the provisions of the bill. In addition, the state board would be responsible for providing ongoing information and education to parents regarding specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia and dyscalculia, and the services available to students with such disabilities.

One other bill to get its first reading on the Senate floor Thursday evening after getting the approval of the Senate Education Committee in the afternoon is House Bill 4228. That bill would repeal or remove certain portions of education-related statutes that have expired or that require or provide for funding.

A bill scheduled for its third reading, passage stage, in the Senate today is House Bill 4373. Its purpose is to help improve the offering of driver education courses to secondary school students by providing options for permitted instructors and allowing courses outside of the regular school schedule. The bill also would remove the requirement for the state superintendent of schools to prescribe the course of instruction, as well as license and periodically inspect commercial driver education schools. Further, it would remove the requirement for secondary school courses to be offered to out-of-school youth and adults.

A fiscal note from the Department of Education estimates that the potential annual savings for county school boards from the bill could be as much as $3,064,824 if all 55 county boards would implement its provisions. The cost savings estimate is based on the assumptions that: the driver education courses at all 116 high schools would be contracted to commercial driving schools; the approximate number of students statewide that would be enrolled in the commercial driving schools for which the boards would pay the cost would total 30,000 per year; and the estimated cost for each student would be $150 per pupil.

 

 

By Jim Wallace

Even though this is a tight year for the state budget, support is strong among legislators to give pay raises to teachers and to a lesser degree to school service personnel. But the size of those proposed raises has been all over the board and remains uncertain on this, the penultimate day of the legislative session.

At the beginning of the session, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed 2 percent pay increases for teachers and school service personnel. His proposal also would increase the minimum pay-scale pay grade for service personnel to bring it back within a requirement for equity. Under the equity provision, the lowest county supplement cannot be more than 10 percent below the average of the highest five counties.

But the Senate Education Committee changed the legislation, Senate Bill 391, to give teachers across-the-board raises of $1,000. Part of the committee members’ thinking was that having a fixed amount across the board would provide more help to teachers early in their careers than a pay raise based on a percentage.

However, when that version of the bill reached the Senate Finance Committee, it was scaled back to give teachers raises of just $837 across the board to keep the total cost about the same as the governor’s original proposal. That’s the version of the bill the Senate approved on a 30-2 vote on February 26. But when it reached the House of Delegates, the bill went through several more changes.

 

House Education makes big changes.

First, the House Education Committee considered a version that would have been the same as the one the Senate Education Committee passed with raises of $1,000 for teachers and 2 percent for school service personnel, plus the equity provision.

But then, Delegate Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia, proposed an amendment to raise the pay increase for teachers to $1,500. She figured that would cost the state an additional $15 million. Asked where the additional funding would come from, she suggested two possibilities. One would have been to extend paying off the unfunded liability for the old workers’ compensation fund. That liability is scheduled to be paid off in 2016.

“We could pull this amount from the workers’ comp liability fund and not hurt that repayment schedule at all and be able to give our teachers what they deserve.” – Delegate Amanda Pasdon

“We could pull this amount from the workers’ comp liability fund and not hurt that repayment schedule at all and be able to give our teachers what they deserve,” Pasdon said. Another possibility is the unfunded teachers’ retirement. We are paying nearly $400 million a year to pay back that unfunded liability. Again, it’s taking a portion of this from that repayment schedule. It will not hurt that repayment schedule, and it’s an immediate benefit not only to our teachers but to our children ultimately by attracting the best and brightest [teachers].”

But Delegate Ricky Moye, D-Raleigh, was skeptical. “I would submit that anytime you cut funding, it does affect those programs,” he said. But Pasdon insisted that paying off those unfunded liabilities would not be hurt by diverting some of the money schedule for that to give teachers better raises.

However, the state’s budget director Mike McKown said Pasdon’s proposed amendment would not automatically take money from the workers’ comp liability payoff or the payoff of the Teachers Retirement System liability. Separate legislation would be needed for that, he said. 

“Which means the money would have to come from someplace else?” Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette, asked.

“To balance the budget, yes, sir, unless you pass a separate bill to take it from those finance sources,” McKown said. Legislation definitely would be needed to take it from the workers’ comp payoff, he said, but taking it from the Teachers Retirement System payoff would be a bit easier. Legislators simply could underfund what they put into teachers’ retirement in the School Aid Formula, he said.

“Is it right to say that those are the kinds of things that have been done in the past that caused us to have this long-term payoff?” – Delegate Mary Poling

House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour, indicated she wasn’t comfortable with Pasdon’s proposal when she asked, “Is it right to say that those are the kinds of things that have been done in the past that caused us to have this long-term payoff?”

“Well, they didn’t have a plan in place to underfund, but yes, ma’am, that’s why you’re paying huge unfunded liabilities today, because we were just looking at the current year budget and not looking down the road to properly funding the retirement system,” McKown said. “It certainly would have a negative impact not only on repayment of the teachers’ retirement or the workers’ comp debt, but it would have, I think, a negative impact on our bond ratings and how Wall Street views us.”

When Pasdon asked whether it could be made part of the governor’s budget, McKown said, “No, ma’am, those come right off the top, and they’re not included in the budget bill. A separate statute requires those workers’ comp payments.”

But Pasdon pressed on. When McKown said about 58 percent of the Teachers’ Retirement System was funded in 2013, she noted that it was much better than the 8 percent reported in 1991.

“Yes, ma’am, we were the sore-thumb stepchild that stuck out badly in the nation,” McKown said.

“And we are now projected to pay those off early,” Pasdon said. “So this could potentially be seen as an investment in our future.”

“I’m not sure what you mean by paying those off early,” McKown said. “The teachers’ retirement fund, if we continue actuarially paying off what’s required, will be paid off in the year 2034.”

“And they were originally projected to be paid off by?” Pasdon asked.

“In the year 2034, 40 years from 1994,” McKown said, referring to the year when the payoff plan was implemented.

“And is it true that the returns from our CPRB [Consolidated Public Retirement Board] this year were at a record high?” Pasdon asked.

“I don’t think they were a record high,” McKown replied. “They were higher back in ’06 or ’07. They were very high this year, well above the seven and half percent.”

“Are they expected to continue to rise?” Pasdon asked.

“Your guess is as good as anyone’s,” McKown told her. “No one can project those. They’re projected to average out long-term at seven and a half percent.”

Delegate Larry Williams, D-Preston, then asked whether the legislature has had to put more general revenue funds into the liability payoff plans in years when investment earnings have dropped below 7.5 percent.

“Yes, sir,” McKown said. “If it’s under seven and a half, it requires more. If we hit seven and a half, it will be flat forever. This year, we gained more, so we actually didn’t need $20-some million. We were able to reduce the payment next year, because we earned about 12 percent interest.”

Williams asked whether taking $15 million out of the payoff this year would result in more of a loss in future years.

“You still have 20 years of payments on the Teachers Retirement System, so if you take $15 [million] out, that’s $15 million times 20 years. That’s $300 million. It would certainly affect it.” – Mike McKown

“You still have 20 years of payments on the Teachers Retirement System, so if you take $15 [million] out, that’s $15 million times 20 years,” McKown responded. “That’s $300 million. It would certainly affect it.”

Delegate David Pethtel, D-Wetzel, said he opposed to Pasdon’s amendment. After noting that he was a teacher for 40 years and just recently retired, he said, “As chair of [the House] Pensions and Retirement [Committee], I’ve always tried to be fiscally responsible. We get many bills in Pensions and Retirement that I would certainly like to do, but they cost lots of money. And in my opinion, it was not fiscally prudent for me to put those bills on the agenda and pass them out. As has already been stated and everyone knows, this is a very difficult budget year. And next year is also going to be a very difficult budget year.”

Although he was sure that teachers would like to get bigger pay raises, Pethtel said, he believed they would understand about being fiscally responsible.

But other committee members supported the amendment. Delegate Roy Cooper, R-Summers, recalled walking a picket line during the 1990 teachers’ strike that swept through most of the state. “We made significant gains that year with [Gov.] Gaston Caperton,” he said. “Teachers have made significant gains since then, but in the last six or seven years, they started to go backwards, and we’re now sitting somewhere around 49th or 50th in pay. We’re also 49th or 50th in other things, too, but we have got to do something to compensate these teachers to keep them in West Virginia. Giving them an extra $500 above what the governor wants to give seems to me...a certainly doable thing to do. It’s the proper thing to do for these teachers, especially an across-the-board pay raise like this.”

“Realizing the tight budget situation we’re in, I think the number one thing we need to do is to prioritize our spending. Teachers should be at the top of that priority list, not at the bottom of the priority list.” – Delegate Jim Butler

Also favoring the amendment, Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, said, “Realizing the tight budget situation we’re in, I think the number one thing we need to do is to prioritize our spending.” He added, “Teachers should be at the top of that priority list, not at the bottom of the priority list. Our state spends money on things I think all of us would agree would be lower in priority than the teachers, including video lottery machines.”

Likewise, Delegate George Ambler, R-Greenbrier, said, “I believe it’s time for us to start having a vision of where education is going to go and what we’re going to try to accomplish in the next five or 10 years.” Noting that the bill states a goal of raising starting pay for teachers to $43,000 in the next five years, he said, the higher pay raise would be a tool to get high-quality teachers.

A few other delegates spoke in favor of Pasdon’s amendment, but Delegate David Walker, D-Clay, said, “I think this is a very discriminating amendment, just picking the teachers for a grander raise, and I would vote against it for that reason alone.”

Perry said, “While the goal is laudable and the amount is laudable, I think we have to realize that we’re in bad financial times.”

The committee then approved the amendment on a vote of 16 to six. Those in favor included: Pasdon; Ron Fragale, D-Harrison; Cooper, Jason Barrett, D-Berkeley; Steve Westfall, R-Jackson; Ted Tomblin, D-Logan; Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison; Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson; Ruth Rowan, R-Hampshire; Adam Young, D-Nicholas; Butler; Linda Sumner, R-Raleigh; David Evans, R-Marshall; Denise Campbell, D-Randolph; Ambler; and Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson. Those voting against it were: Perry, Moye, Pethtel, Walker, Williams and Poling, all Democrats.

 

Delegate wanted extra pay for teachers in expensive districts.

Espinosa then proposed an amendment to provide a 2 percent supplemental increase for teachers for each 10 percent that housing costs in their districts are above the statewide average. That would have provided more pay for districts like his home county in the Eastern Panhandle, which has experienced rapid growth and increases in the cost of living.

“If you look at our state, one size does not fit all. Particularly in some of the growth areas of our state, we’re just having a very difficult time not only attracting but retaining educators when they can go a very short distance over the border to surrounding states and be able to teach at significantly higher salaries.” – Delegate Paul Espinosa

“If you look at our state, one size does not fit all,” Espinosa said. “Particularly in some of the growth areas of our state, we’re just having a very difficult time not only attracting but retaining educators when they can go a very short distance over the border to surrounding states and be able to teach at significantly higher salaries.”

Asked how much his proposal would cost, he said he didn’t know, but the House Finance Committee could consider the cost if the bill would include his amendment.

Asked whether any other states do anything like that, Espinosa also couldn’t say but he said it’s common in other industries and in the military.

 Bob Brown of the American Federation of Teachers said West Virginia is unusual in having a statewide salary schedule for teachers, so he didn’t know of any other state that provides housing allowances.

Poling said she opposed the amendment. She noted that, in 2007, the legislature passed Senate Bill 541 to adjust the local share. “That provided one of the best models for a one-size-does-not-fit-all, because it allowed each county in the state to keep now 10 percent of what would have been counted on their local share for their local needs,” she said. “That 10 percent varies from $50 in the most property-poor counties – $50 per student – to over $300 in the property-rich counties, the counties where the home values are high.”

Thus, she concluded, those counties could do what the amendment addresses. She also expressed concern about not knowing how much the amendment would cost.

Fragale said he opposed the amendment even though he thought it was well intentioned. “It has some value to it,” he said. “I’m just not sure the timing is right.”

Pethtel said he opposed the amendment mainly because its cost was unknown. “As chair of Pensions, I’ve never believed in just running bills and then telling groups, ‘It’s over in Finance. You got to see that chairman. He can deal with it.’ I believe that this is not fiscally responsible in any way.”

But Espinosa argued, “Those counties where housing costs are higher are experiencing difficulties in attracting and retaining quality educators.” He said his amendment would supplement what Senate Bill 541 did several years ago. The committee rejected the amendment on a voice vote.

 

Committee gets even bigger pay raise proposal.

“I’m not against a multi-year pay package for professional personnel and service personnel, but just like I spoke on the other two amendments, you got to find a way to pay for it. Are you going to be willing to raise revenue to pay for this, because that’s really what you’re talking about?” – Delegate David Pethtel

Then Walker proposed a new amendment to increase teachers’ pay by $1,000 a year and service personnel’s pay by $100 a month in the next fiscal year. In the following year, teachers would get another $2,000 a year increase and service personnel would get another $100 a month. In the third fiscal year, teachers would get an increase of $3,000 while service personnel would get another $100 a month. For service personnel with 10-month contracts the proposal essentially would give them raises of $1,000 a year. Walker figured the cost would be about $90 million.

Pasdon noted that, when the raises were considered by percentage, service personnel would get higher increases than teachers.

Again, Pethtel opposed the proposal. “I’m not against a multi-year pay package for professional personnel and service personnel, but just like I spoke on the other two amendments, you got to find a way to pay for it,” he said. “Are you going to be willing to raise revenue to pay for this, because that’s really what you’re talking about?”

Moye favored Walker’s amendment. “I think it addresses our problem long-term in a better fashion,” he said. “In three years, our teachers will be much better off, and it will bring the base salary up much better for our teachers and help our service personnel also.”

Poling noted that she is not seeking re-election to the House but said that had nothing to do with her comments. “I would encourage everyone to take a look at this amendment and consider in your own minds whether it is truly fiscally responsible,” she said, adding that the legislature wouldn’t have the money to pay for it without tax increases.

Nevertheless, the committee approved Walker’s amendment, which superseded Pasdon’s amendment.

 

Finance Committee trimmed bill again.

When the House Finance Committee took up Senate Bill 391, it scaled it back to provide teachers with a $1,000 across-the-board raise and school service personnel 2 percent increases, which is what the Senate Education Committee wanted.

Delegate Kevin Craig, D-Cabell, said “It’s a tough equation to solve, but it’s one we need to solve. Recruiting the next generation of teachers is crucial.”

Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, said, “What we have before us is a modest teacher pay raise that costs us $39 million, and we have to dip into the Rainy Day Fund to pay for it.”

Senate Bill 391 was scheduled for second reading in the House of Delegates today. Unless the House would suspend rules, it would be scheduled to pass the bill on Saturday, the final day of the session. Because the House version with $1,000 raises for teachers is different than the Senate version with $837 raises for teachers, the final version of the bill likely could come down to whatever is negotiated by a House-Senate conference committee in the hours before the session ends.

 

Bill would determine how troubled students get back into school.

In action today, the House approved Senate Bill 252, which would authorize school boards, superintendents and principals to allow certain expelled students the opportunity to return to school through a juvenile drug court program. The House Education Committee approved an amendment to make a few changes to the bill. For example, rather making than the reinstatement of the student in school mandatory, the decision would be made by a school assistance team. The team would make a recommendation to the county superintendent, who would decide whether reinstatement would be appropriate. Also, instead of requiring a reinstated student to be permitted to return to school within five days after notice of completion of the juvenile drug court program, the time limit would be 10 days. That would give the superintendent more time to meet with the student assistance team and court officials.

Tina Sevy, legislative director for the Supreme Court, told the committee that it takes a student six to eight months, depending on the student’s progress, to complete the juvenile drug court program.

State Supt. Jim Phares explained that a school assistance team typically includes teachers, administrators, a probation officer and a representative of the court. “The school assistance team intervenes and tries to give accommodations and modifications within the regular school setting prior to any action being taken,” he said, so it would be logical to have the team involved.

“If you think this is a mill where they go in and come out, it’s not. It’s very strict and rigid. It means adherence by the parents and the students. And quite often, students don’t get very far, because the parents do not do their due diligence.” – Supt. Jim Phares

Phares also spoke in support of the juvenile drug court program. “If you think this is a mill where they go in and come out, it’s not,” he said. “It’s very strict and rigid. It means adherence by the parents and the students. And quite often, students don’t get very far, because the parents do not do their due diligence.”

After a school assistance team makes an evaluation, a student could go into alternative education or the regular school setting, Phares said. “You don’t want to put the student in an environment that’s going to cause them to fall back into [trouble],” he said.

Asked about the success of the program, Sevy said, it had a 62 percent graduation rate and a recidivism rate of only 13 percent in 2012. “We treat an entire family in juvenile court,” she said. “That’s the fundamental difference between an adult drug court and a juvenile drug court. In juvenile drug court, we need to treat the family. It’s pointless to send a kid back to a toxic environment.”

Parents must meet with the judge and undergo intensive counseling, she said, so “it’s not a quick in and out.” It costs $6,400 to put a kid and family through the juvenile drug court program, Sevy said, but housing a kid in Juvenile Services costs $126,000 a year, so the difference is $12 million in costs versus $1.3 million. About 200 kids are in juvenile drug court on any given day, she added.

After the Education Committee approved the amendment, Lawrence called the bill probably one of the most effective bills this year. “This gives our county boards one more option to help reform that behavior [of students] and put them on the path to success,” she said.

When Senate Bill 252 reached the House Judiciary Committee, Chairman Tim Manchin, D-Marion, explained that there have been some difficulties in returning students to school after they go through the juvenile drug court program. “The Senate bill, as originally written, would give the judge authority to directly return them to school within five days regardless of how the superintendent viewed that situation,” he said. “This amendment by the House Education Committee provides that there would be created a student assistance team that will first look at the return to school, make recommendations to the superintendent, but that it will ultimately still be the superintendent’s call as to whether or not to return that child and that they are not allowed to return to school if it was a gun violation.”

The House sent the revised version of the bill back to the Senate, which must decide whether to accept it with the House’s changes.

 

Bill would restrict interference in teachers’ planning periods.

Another bill on third reading in the House today was Senate Bill 477, which would provide that teachers would have the right to determine the use of time in their planning periods.

“What this says is that you will still have IEP meetings, parent conferences and those things during teachers’ planning periods, but it will be at their decision to do that rather than a principal coming to you and saying, ‘You have to do this during this time,’”  – Dale Lee

“What this says is that you will still have IEP meetings, parent conferences and those things during teachers’ planning periods, but it will be at their decision to do that rather than a principal coming to you and saying, ‘You have to do this during this time,’” Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, told the House Education Committee. Some teachers have expressed concern that the bill would not let them conduct those meetings during planning periods, but he said the bill doesn’t say that. Instead, he said, it would leave those decisions up to them. 

“I would guess that you won’t see a lot of change in those decisions from teachers, making sure they have parents there for both parent conferences and IEP conferences,” Lee said. “The difference is it can’t be forced upon you; it’s your decision.”

Then he added, “In schools where everything’s working well, all of these things will continue. You won’t see much of a change. The major change you’ll see is principals continually asking or telling teachers they have to give up their planning period for this, that or the other with the threat of your evaluation or insubordination if you don’t do those things.”

Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, agreed that the bill would not prevent teachers from participating in parent conferences or IEP meetings during planning periods. “It empowers them to be part of the process of when do those things occur,” she said. “There are opportunities outside that planning time to get those things accomplished.”

But Espinosa said he had discussed the bill with administrators of schools systems in my area of the Eastern Panhandle. “They’ve expressed some concerns about the impact this legislation might have on having department team meetings, dual planning meetings in middle school that they believe are essential and instructional,” he said.

However, Supt. Jim Phares said he didn’t think the effects of the bill would be as bad as some administrators fear. “Somehow we worked through last year’s legislation without any additional cost to give a 40-minute planning period minimum at the elementary level,” he said.   “I think it will improve the planning for the IEP process. I think it will improve the planning for the data review. I think it’s going to improve the planning for collaborative planning.”

What Phares said he worries about is getting teachers together for IEP meetings when one teacher disagrees. “That one teacher may not agree to it not because they don’t want to give up a planning period,” he said. “They probably don’t want to be in the same room with the parent or student. We’ve all been around IEP meetings where that has occurred.”

But in the end, Phares said, he doubted the bill would do anything to hamper the IEP process. He added that no one representing principals had shown up at legislative meeting to object to the bill, so he assumed they were not overly concerned about it. He concluded by saying he has learned that no bill is as good as it is said to be by supporters nor as bad as opponents fear it might be.

“A good principal would treat his teachers a certain way, and usually, I have found in my experience with several principals I worked with, if they asked me to give up my planning period, no argument, I’d do it. With others, I’d say, no, I don’t want to.” – Delegate Ron Fragale

Fragale said much depends on the relationships developed within schools. “A good principal would treat his teachers a certain way, and usually, I have found in my experience with several principals I worked with, if they asked me to give up my planning period, no argument, I’d do it,” he said. “With others, I’d say, no, I don’t want to.”

One change the Education Committee made to the bill removed the word “request,” so it still would be acceptable for a principal to ask a teacher to give up a planning period but not demand it.
           
The committee approved the amendment on a 22-1 vote with Espinosa voting against it. The committee then voted 22 to zero to approve the bill.

House approval of the amended bill today would leave it up to the Senate to decide whether to accept the bill with the House changes.

 

Governor’s reform bill is pending.

On second reading in the House today is a bill proposed by Gov. Tomblin to make a wide range of reforms in both the public education system and higher education. Senate Bill 409 would:

  • Require that each electronic county school strategic improvement plan be for a period of no more than five years.
     
  • Modify the provisions relating to school system accreditation by generally giving the state board more flexibility in establishing a system of accreditation.
     
  • Add propane as an alternative fuel that a county will get credit for in determining the county’s allowance for transportation costs.
  • Require that a teacher with a valid West Virginia teaching certificate be awarded certification to teach in an additional area of certification upon submission of a passing score of an appropriate content area test required of other teachers for certification in that area.
     
  • Add a provision for a critical need alternative teaching certificate, which is valid for the purpose of allowing the certificate-holder to teach in subject areas. It would requires a position to have been posted for at least twice and for the position to have remained unfilled by a certified teacher for at least one full year before that position could be filled by the holder of a critical-need alternative teaching certificate. It would provide that the certificate is valid for two years and may be renewed for one additional year and it would support eligibility requirements for the new certificate. It would require that training and support of the critical-need alternative teaching certificate holder be provided by a professional support team.
     
  • Add a number of additional duties for the Higher Education Policy Commission and the Council [for Community and Technical Colleges] for the purpose of facilitating a more seamless transfer process and make it easy for students to finish a degree when transferring credits.
     
  • Require a bachelor’s degree institution seeking to change its required program of study for a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science program that is part of a statewide 2+2 pathway to notify the council and the commission of the proposed changes at the same time as the initiation of the university’s approval process.

Dave Mohr, counsel for the House Education Committee, said the House version differs from the Senate version in a rewrite of alternative certification programs. It would re-insert several provisions already passed in the House, such as for posting positions in critical need areas, a new section about priority recruitment areas and looking at alternatives to optimize student learning. One provision would delay use of statewide summative assessments for personnel decisions and evaluations until the 2016-17 evaluations, which would be based on 2015-16 results.

Espinosa asked whether the bill’s provision on planning periods could override those in Senate Bill 477. Mohr said the intent is to give the state school board more latitude. Alternative school-level plans could be accepted if they received the approval of two-thirds of the faculty senate, he said.

Also, Mohr explained, the bill would affect districts taken over by the state board. In takeover counties, when the office of superintendent is declared vacant, the professional personnel who serve at the will and pleasure of the superintendent also would be terminated, he said. “You’ll see in a lot of takeover counties where they stay and what the new superintendent ends up doing is bringing in several more,” he said.

Phares said a provision for filling teaching vacancies would give superintendents more flexibility. Under legislation passed last year, he said, superintendents are limited in their ability to move a teacher who might be best qualified for an open position from one school to another, but Senate Bill 409 would allow them to do that.

“What we tried to do last year was to minimize the negative effects of the bump in transfer, and we didn’t really look at that particular situation,” Phares said. “The thing we tried to do last year is we didn’t want a more senior teacher being riffed and a less senior teacher getting the position. So this kind of helps us ameliorate that to a certain extent.”

“Our position is we’re hoping we can get another year to study everything and come back with recommendations.” – Supt. Jim Phares

However, he added that the effects of such legislation are never certain. “We’re always nervous about it,” Phares said. “Our position is we’re hoping we can get another year to study everything and come back with recommendations.”

Delegate Jim Butler tried to amendment the bill to cap the salary of the director of the Office of Education Performance Audits at $140,000, but the committee rejected it. Some said they trusted the state school board to handle that.

Unless the House would suspend its rules, Senate Bill 409 was on schedule to be approved Saturday. After that, it would have to go back to the Senate for agreement on the changes the House made in the bill.

 

Status of data bill was in doubt.

Another bill facing an uncertain fate is Senate Bill 420, which would affect the state longitudinal data system, known as P-20W. It would add WorkForce West Virginia, the West Virginia Supreme Court and the Bureau for Children and Families to the existing entities that are to enter into a state data-sharing compact. Further, it would add workforce and child care information to the data that are to be included in the P-20W system and create a governing board for that system. It was still possible for the bill to pass before the end of the session on Saturday, but the House had sent it back to the Finance Committee on second reading. The House would have to bring it back from the committee and give it a third reading for the bill to pass.

When it was first in the House Finance Committee, Delegate Woody Ireland, R-Ritchie, wanted to know why the bill contained a long list of personally identifiable information. Carla Howe, the Education Department’s data governance manager, said a Senate committee added that language. “That is not information we have or collect at all at this time anyway, but that group felt it was very important to name and be very clear it would not be part of the P-20W system,” she said. Specific agencies collect such information as Social Security numbers, but that information is not included in the P-20W system, she added.

“Having the demographic data across agencies is very important so we can see how our students performed in the K-12 system and what that meant then once they got to the higher education component or when they went into the workforce or both.” – Carla Howe

Howe further explained why the system needs to collect demographic data. “Partly with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, understanding how our subgroups are performing is very important in trying to close those achievement gaps between groups,” she said. “So having the demographic data across agencies is very important so we can see how our students performed in the K-12 system and what that meant then once they got to the higher education component or when they went into the workforce or both.”

The financial component of the data is only to determine the average earnings of individuals who graduate from higher education with certain degrees, Howe said, so it’s needed to make projections.

Asked whether the information will be available to the public, she said, “It is meant to be a public reporting system. So again, it is aggregate. It is not personally identifiable. So it will be, once it’s off the ground, available for public consumption.”

Ireland wanted to know if the department would require parents’ permission to collect students’ data. Howe said it wouldn’t because only aggregate information would go into the system and that information already is being collected.

Educating the public about the system is a large part of her role, she said. The state has had a student information system since the 1990s, but until now, it hasn’t had the reporting system to go with it, Howe said.

Despite Howe’s assurances, Delegate Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, asked, “How can we protect our children’s identity from identity thieves?”

“We are doing everything that we can to ensure that the information is not only encrypted in transit and in rest, but particularly in this for the P-20W, that information that is sensitive when we do the linking does not even go to the reporting side,” she said. “If it were to be hacked, it would be Student A who had this test score in language arts and this in reading, and this is where they attended school. So there aren’t these sensitive data within the system.”

Delegate Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, asked whether the bill referred to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Howe responded, “FERPA is our main component, and then we have our additional securities and practices and policies that we’ve put into place on top of that.”

Sobonya said that troubled her, because FERPA declined to adopt the proposal that parents be notified about the disclosure of personally identifiable information. “So if we’re bound by FERPA, then it really doesn’t make it private, does it?” she asked.

“Yes, it does, because the reporting mechanism is not personally identifiable information,” Howe replied. She added that any information with a small cell size is suppressed to prevent any individual from being identified.

“But if they’re in conflict with each other, which would prevail?” Sobonya asked.

“As I see it, there is no conflict,” Howe said.

Ireland then asked, “If this bill were not to become reality, what could you not do?”

“We would not have the child care component,” Howe said. “I think what we know about early learning and early learning implications for K-12 and success in higher education, we would be missing out on that component. But we currently have the K-12, the higher education and the workforce components working together. We have our contracts in place. We are in the midst of having 10 major high school feedback reports and implications for what our high school standardized assessment means for students in colleges with remediation courses and the percentage they need to take those courses or not. So we are in process already, but it would take away the child care component and just would take away some of the formal components of our other agencies that could be part of this work.”

Although a few members voted against it, the Finance Committee approved the bill and sent it to the full House, where passage seems likely to occur on Saturday. Because the House Judiciary Committee made a minor change in the bill, the Senate would have to decide whether to accept the House version of the bill.

One more education bill that seemed scheduled to pass in the House on Saturday is Senate Bill 253, which would correct minor flaws in a law about a special community-based pilot demonstration project included in last year’s education reform bill. The House Education Committee made several small changes to the bill, so the Senate would have to decide whether to accept the House version.

 

 

By Jim Wallace

Several education bills have received approval from both the House of Delegates and the Senate, so they can go to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature.

One of them is House Bill 4618, which addresses the issue of early literacy. “This bill eliminates the Critical Skills Instruction Support programs for third and eighth grade and replaces it with a transformative system for support for early literacy,” Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, explained to his Senate colleagues. “As you know when we passed Senate Bill 359 [last year’s major education reform bill], we did do a third-grade reading initiative, and this helps support the third-grade reading initiative. It actually will allow the [state school] board to use some of the money that they have in other things to support this.”

The bill resulted from meetings the leaders of the Senate and House Education Committees had with Education Department officials, he said. The Senate approved it on a vote of 34 to zero. The House accepted the way the Senate amended it, so the bill has completed the legislative process and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

House Bill 4302 also has passed in both the House and the Senate. The purpose of this bill is to allow for the use of county election officials to conduct elections held for public school purposes. The bill also designates the county commission as the board of canvassers to canvass the returns of all elections held for public school purposes. The Senate Judiciary Committee made a few changes in the bill. The Senate approved that version 33-0 on Thursday and asked the House to approve Senate changes. House concurred with the Senate amendments and approved the bill 92-0 Thursday, so the bill goes to the governor.

Another bill going to the governor is House Bill 4003, which the Senate approved 34-0. The purpose of the bill is to grant dual jurisdiction to counties where a student who lives in one county and attends school in another for the enforcement of truancy policies.

Likewise, it is now the governor’s decision whether to accept House Bill 4384, which would require teachers of students with exceptional needs to either be present at an individualized education program meeting or to read and sign a copy of the individualized education program (IEP) plan indicating that they have read the plan and to make modifications intended to help students in a particular subject.

One other bill to have completed the legislative process is Senate Bill 209, which would require county boards of education to allow students with special needs to participate in graduation ceremonies with their peers. The House approved the bill 95 to zero and sent it back to the Senate, which voted 31-0 Thursday evening to accept the House changes and send the bill to the governor.

 

 

By Jim Wallace

Several education-related bills that got through their house of origin, either the Senate or the House, by the deadline for that last week have apparently died because of failure to get any traction in the opposite house. It sometimes can be tricky to pronounce bills dead before the legislative session ends, because all or parts of seemingly dead bills can be amended into bills still under consideration, giving them new life.

But barring that, these bills seem to have died for the 2014 legislative session:

  • Senate Bill 455, which would have created the West Virginia Move to Improve Act. It got through the House Health and Human Resources Committee with an amendment, but it died in the House Education Committee. The bill would have required students to get more physical activity in school. The Senate had approved it 33 to zero. House Bill 4582 was similar, but it never got out of the House Education Committee.
     
  • Senate Bill 539, which would have provided that law-enforcement officers employed for school security would be allowed to carry firearms on school property if certain conditions were met. The Senate approved it 33 to zero, but the bill failed to get out of the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 4501, which had the same purpose, received approval by a 95-0 vote in the House. The Senate sent it to the Education Committee and then the Judiciary Committee, but it did not get out of the first committee.
  • Senate Bill 493, which would have ensured that suspension days are not counted as days absent from school when assessing whether a juvenile is a status offender or when prosecuting an adult for a child’s failure to attend school. The Senate approved it 33 to nothing, but the House sent it to the Education Committee after which it was to go to the Judiciary Committee. However, the Education Committee never acted on it.
     
  • House Bill 4307, which some people called the “cupcake bill.” It started out as a short, simple bill to allow students to occasionally have sweet treats at school parties or other celebrations once a year. The bill’s original wording provided: “Once a year, an elementary school may celebrate an event during which cupcakes or other refreshments such as cakes, pies or other similar desserts are served to the students by the school or parents of students at the school, without restrictions as to caloric or nutrient content, to teach balanced nutrition through moderation.” But the House Education Committee expanded the wording extensively and spent much time debating it. The House approved it on a 95-1 vote. However, the Senate wasn’t so sweet on it. The Senate referred the bill first to the Health and Human Resources Committee and then the Education Committee, but it never got out of the first committee.
     
  • House Bill 4137, which was intended to provide a more equitable distribution to county school boards for reimbursement of the costs of serving high cost/high acuity, special needs students. They are students whose educational costs exceed three times the average per-student cost and include regularly enrolled students placed in out-of-state facilities and residential facility students with special needs who are enrolled with a county board. The reimbursement of costs over that the limit is made with a combination of state and federal funds, but it currently meet only 54 percent of the eligible requests. At less than full reimbursement, counties with higher percentages high cost/high acuity special needs students spend disproportionate percentages of their instructional budgets on them. The bill would have required a distribution formula that would have equalized the budgetary effects as much as possible. The House approved the bill on a vote of 96 to zero. The Senate assigned it to the Finance Committee, but the committee never acted on it. Senate Bill 513 was similar. The Senate Education Committee approved it, but it also never got out of the Senate Finance Committee.
     
  • House Bill 4399 would have prohibited a local levying body, such as a school board, from holding a special election for the purpose of submitting a levy question to the voters if the date of the special election were 180 days or less before or after a regular primary or general election. The wording was changed by the House to: “The local levying body may not hold more than one special election for the purpose of submitting a levy question to the voters during any year in which a regular primary or general election is held. During years in which there is no regular primary or general election, the local levying body may not hold a special election in the months of January, February or December.” A 96-0 vote approved the bill in the House. The Senate referred the bill to the Government Organization Committee and then the Judiciary Committee, but it never came out of the first committee. Senate Bill 374 was similar, but it also never got past the Senate Government Organization Committee.
     
  • House Bill 4555, which would have required county boards of education to provide released time for professional educators and service personnel when they serve in an elected municipal or county office. The House approved the bill on an 85-10 vote. The Senate assigned the bill to the Education Committee and then the Finance Committee, but it did not get out of the first committee.

Another bill that did not survive could live on in the form of a resolution calling for legislators to conduct a study over the next year leading up to the 2015 session of the legislature. Senate Bill 540 would have required the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) to promulgate rules to allow a college preparatory team to elect to be recognized as a member. Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, wanted the bill to help a Huntington St. Joseph Prep, which has a nationally recognized boys’ basketball team and needs WVSSAC membership to participate in some national events. The team is based in his district.

Although the Senate approved that bill 31 to three, it stalled in the House Education Committee. The WVSSAC also opposed the bill. Plymale’s response was to have his Senate Education Committee on Thursday originate a new resolution calling for a study of the WVSSAC. “I’m doing this in lieu of amending the Huntington Prep bill into something,” he said. “So I would like for us to at least have a review of this and some study during the interims.”

 

 

The new executive director of the West Virginia Association of School Administrators, A.J. Rogers, is pleased one bill has died during the current legislative session, but he is concerned about another one that is still moving through the process.

Senate Bill 477, which would give teachers control over their planning periods and prevent administrators from assigning them to most other tasks during those periods, received the Senate’s approval and is on track to pass in the House of Delegates today. However, the House Education Committee amended it, so for the bill to become law, the Senate and House would have to agree on a common version before the session ends at midnight Saturday evening.

“In my opinion, this bill is a solution looking for a problem,” Rogers said. “In my nearly 40 years of educational service, I cannot recall this ever being an issue.”

Although the bill has been amended to clarify that teachers still could voluntarily use their planning periods for such activities as conferences with parents and meetings on students’ individual education programs (IEPs), Rogers said such issues should be worked out at the local level rather than by the legislature.

“An effective school or county system is built on trust, communication and collaboration,” he said. “If teacher planning periods have been abused by some school principals or county systems, let the grievance procedure settle the issue.”

Rogers noted that the education efficiency audit, which has served as a basis for many of the state’s education reforms last year and this year, found that West Virginia has one of the most centrally controlled education systems in the nation. He hopes that Senate Bill 409, which was proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to address a wide range of education reforms, will give local schools more flexibility to counter the effects of Senate Bill 477.

The bill that Rogers is glad has not survived the legislative process is House Bill 4516, which would have prohibited county school boards from using Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs) to displace locally hired school service personnel or professional educators. Although the bill never made it out of the House Education Committee, the issues it raised could yet be assigned for study during the monthly legislative interim meetings that will be held leading up to the 2015 legislative session. As a former RESA director, Rogers said, he would welcome such a study.

One of the findings of the education efficiency audit is that RESAs should play an integral role in increasing efficiency for school districts. Rogers said state school board member William White has visited every RESA to gather information about them, and the West Virginia School Board Association has discussed RESAs at its regional meetings, so much of the information that legislators might want about RESAs already has been gathered.

In addition, he said, the RESAs have worked diligently to implement recommendations from the audit. Cooperative purchasing through RESAs already has saved districts thousands of dollars, and RESAs long have had the role of employing specialized personnel for districts, he said.

Rogers became WVASA’s executive director last September, just two months after retiring as the director of RESA 4. His 38 years of service to the public school system included work in Nicholas and Webster counties. He served for five years as superintendent of the Webster County schools.

His education included graduating from Clay County High School in 1973, graduation from Glenville State College in 1977 with degrees in elementary education and social studies, and a master’s degree from Marshall University in 1982.

 

Editor’s Note – Jim Wallace is a former government reporter for theCharleston Daily Mail, former news director of West Virginia Public Radio and former news director of WWVA/WOVK radio in Wheeling. He now works for TSG Consulting, a public relations and governmental affairs company with offices in Charleston and Beckley. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and a master’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University. Wallace is the author of the 2012 book,A History of the West Virginia Capitol: The House of State.