Legislative News



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March 13, 2015 - Volume 35 Issue 17


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



By Jim Wallace

One West Virginia would not have to get rid of its Common Core-based education standards – at least in the next few years – if the Senate prevails in its version of a bill that started out calling for the repeal of those standards. However, unless further changes are made in House Bill 2934, the state would have to drop out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium within a few years or persuade legislators to keep the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

When the House of Delegates passed the bill 75-19 on February 28, it gave the state school board and Department of Education a matter of months – by July 1 of this year – to abandon the West Virginia Next Generation Standards and Objectives, which are based largely on the Common Core. Last week, a Senate subcommittee was willing to give the board and department an extra year to ditch the Common Core. But on Monday morning, a completely different version of the bill came out of the Senate Education Committee.

Senate Education Chairman Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, explained that an immediate repeal of the current standards would be “absolutely disastrous to our education system.” But he said he thought the state should take “a good, hard look” at the standards.

The new version of House Bill 2934 would require the state superintendent of schools to undertake a comprehensive review of the standards to ensure that:

  • West Virginia’s standards are college and career ready;
  • West Virginia’s standards are revised, as needed, to ensure that students will be adequately prepared for college and careers:
  • Schools and school systems in West Virginia have adequate and appropriate curriculum and instructional strategies to provide instruction that enables students to meet college and career ready standards:
  • Sufficient training and professional development is provided to equip teachers and leaders to use curriculum and instructional strategies that enable students to meet college and career ready standards; and
  • Schools and school systems in West Virginia have appropriate information and resources to engage and assist parents with helping improve the learning of their children.

Another provision of the bill is that the state superintendent would be required to establish English language arts and mathematics standards review committees. The review committees would assist and advise the superintendent in the review and revision process to ensure that the standards recommended to the West Virginia Board of Education for adoption are college and career ready. Members of each review committees are to include: West Virginia certified teachers with subject matter and grade-level expertise; a parent; a teacher organization representative; a school administrator, a principal; a representative of the West Virginia School Board Association; an employer; three senators; three delegates; and others of the state superintendent’s choosing.

Further, the state superintendent would be required to conduct at least four regional town hall-style meetings to engage members of the public in the standards review process. The superintendent also would have to regularly inform the legislature of any actions taken with respect to standards, assessments, accountability and professional development through reporting to the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability.

At the end of the comprehensive review process and no later than January 1, 2017, the superintendent would have to recommend to the West Virginia Board of Education any changes to the English language arts and mathematics standards that would be necessary to assure that the standards are college and career ready. In addition, the superintendent would have to recommend to the state board an appropriate statewide summative assessment schedule for grades three through 12. As part of the review process, the superintendent would be expected to direct a review of the Student Data Accessibility, Transparency and Accountability and the longitudinal data system.

The provision of the bill that concerned at least a few senators is a requirement for the state to cease using assessments from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium after the 2016-2017 school year unless the legislature would change the law by then. This is first school year that West Virginia is scheduled to use the Smarter Balanced Assessments. The bill also would prevent the state from using the other set of assessments connected to the Common Core that have been developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). 

Pausing to allow him time to review the standards is the right thing to do, Martirano said. “I want to get it right,” he said. “As your new superintendent, I want to make sure we have the highest quality standards.”“The State Supt. Michael Martirano said he appreciated the opportunity to take more time evaluating the standards, because if that were not done properly it could destabilize the state’s education delivery model. “I need to firmly understand what the challenges are in the existing set of standards to make firm recommendations about how to improve those,” he said. “I firmly believe that we’re on the right path in terms of reform efforts in the state of West Virginia.”

The main point of consternation Martirano said he still had about the bill was the provision to prohibit use of Smarter Balanced Assessments within a few years. “I don’t have that data to make that recommendation whether we should eliminate Smarter Balanced at this point or not,” he said. “I’m willing to take that under advisement.” He said Smarter Balanced is expected to cost the state $7 million each year, and he would hate to see people not take it seriously knowing it won’t be around very long.

Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said he objected to the original effort to throw out the Common Core-related standards. “There’s been no measuring yet because this is just being implemented,” he said, adding that he thought some legislators were just following the lead of other states that have been backing off Common Core without determining whether the standards have the serious problems some people have charged that they have.

Martirano agreed and said, “I can’t make any decision as a very thoughtful individual in general based upon hearsay and lack of solid data.” He added, “I have yet to have somebody point out a particular standard that is a challenge.”

The state should not adjust its standards every two years, Martirano said, but repealing the Common Core-based standards, as the original bill would have required, would be the third change within five years.


Senator preferred study resolution rather than a bill.

On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee approved the bill and sent it to the full Senate, but Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, argued that the bill still was taking the wrong approach. Plymale, who was chairman of the Senate Education Committee for the last several years when Democrats were in the majority, said it would be better to put the issues about Common Core into a study resolution rather than a bill. Such a resolution would allow legislators to study the issues over many months between regular legislative sessions and then decide whether legislation would be needed.

Plymale also objected to the requirement to get rid of Smarter Balanced Assessments within a few years unless the legislature would change the law. He noted that when Indiana dropped its participation in the testing consortium, the state chamber of commerce picked up the cost of switching to new assessments. “So I think that’s something our chamber of commerce needs to step up and do as well,” he said.

However, Sen. Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, said he was concerned that a study resolution might not be an effective way of addressing the concerns he and others have about Common Core. “Often times, I would perceive that study resolutions typically don’t get accomplished within the time constraints that you ordinarily would anticipate,” he said. “They have a tendency sometimes to get lethargic and drag along.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said he was concerned that changing standards might have an effect on West Virginia’s plans for giving all public schools grades of A through F. Martirano said the planned A-F grading system would be affected.

“A major component of the A-F system is measuring growth, and you have to be able to measure apples to apples in terms of growth, as opposed to apples to oranges,” he said. “I firmly believe that our standards are of high quality right now. A’s and B’s delivered by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a lot of other sources have ranked our standards very high. They previously were not college and career ready standards.”

Martirano said the state is on the right trajectory for the A-F grading system for schools and a new teacher evaluation system unless the standards and assessments are changed. “If Smarter Balanced sunsets, as it is in the provision, that will push a halt to that grading system as I know it because if we were to implement a new set of assessments, that would be back to that apples-to-oranges comparison,” he said.

The revised House Bill 2934 was scheduled for second reading in the Senate today, meaning it would be on passage stage Saturday, the final day of the session. But for the legislature to be able to send the bill to the governor, the House and Senate would have to reconcile their differences in it.

By Jim Wallace

AA bill to authorize public charter schools in West Virginia was scheduled for third reading – and possible passage – in the House of Delegates today.

But for Senate Bill 14 to get through the legislative process, the House and Senate would have to resolve differences between their versions of the bill. A key difference is a provision in the Senate version that would prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and employees. The House Education Committee took that provision out of the bill last week, and the House Finance Committee declined this week to put it back in.

The lack of that anti-discrimination provision also was the concern of many of the 25 people who spoke about the bill during a public hearing the House Finance Committee held in the House chamber on Tuesday morning.

During the House Finance Committee meeting, Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, offered the amendment that would have returned the bill to the anti-discrimination wording in the Senate version. The House version simply said: “A public charter school may not discriminate against any person on any basis that would be unlawful if done by non-charter public school.” But Guthrie wanted to change that to read: “A public charter school may not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, religion, age, ancestry or national origin or on any other basis that would be unlawful if done by non-charter public school.”

Guthrie said she though the more specific language might have been taken out in the House Education Committee inadvertently without realizing the effect it could have. “I don’t think anyone realized what they were doing,” she said. “The practical effect of that is that we would be opening up folks who struggle with their identities at an early age, as some have and some haven’t, and would give them more opportunities to be bullied, more opportunities to be harassed, more opportunities to be discriminated against. I don’t think that a lot of kids know what they are, who they are, at a lot of different ages.”

Recalling a football star she knew in high school, Guthrie said he was 16 when something was amiss and “he blew his brains out.” She said she and others decided he was having trouble not being able to admit he was a homosexual in that time and place.

Guthrie said, “I don’t think that, if we’re going to do something as radical as charter schools, which I disagree with fundamentally, I don’t think that we need to pile on and say to kids, ‘We will not recognize who you are. We will not celebrate your right to exist. What we’re going to do is to try to make you feel horrible about who you think you want to become. And we are not – not – going to recognize your difference and celebrate it.’”

Other delegates, including Ron Walters, R-Kanawha, and Bob Ashley, R-Roane, argued to leave the language as it was in the House Education Committee’s version.

Guthrie ended the discussion by saying, “I think you can hide behind a very broad-based discrimination-prohibited language, or you can be specific.”

She added, “I think anything short of that is a half measure, and I think it doesn’t do us any more good to get further along in our evolution as a state that welcomes everyone.”

When the committee voted on Guthrie’s proposal, 21 delegates voted against it. Only Guthrie and three others – Linda Longstreth, D-Marion; Dave Pethtel, D-Wetzel; and Linda Phillips, D-Wyoming – voted for the amendment.

Pethtel then said he had received about 1,500 emails about the charter schools bill, most of them against it.

The House Finance Committee approved the bill 16-9.


Speakers were divided at public hearing.

The committee took up the charter schools bill after holding an hour-long public hearing in the House chamber. The 25 people who spoke were almost evenly divided between those support charter schools and those who oppose them. Several of the opponents to the bill objected to what they saw as lack of sufficient protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Rev. Jim Lewis, an Episcopal pastor from Charleston, said it is important to protect students from being bullied. “I speak today against this particular bill in the hopes that this legislature will give the kid of protection that these kids deserve,” he said. He recalled a boy who sought his help about 40 years ago when Lewis was pastor at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Charleston. He said the boy was the target of bullying because of his sexual orientation, and he eventually committed suicide.

Jill Rice, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, suggested that the change in the anti-discrimination provision could end up being the bill’s “poison pill,” a provision that could end up killing the bill no matter what other merits the bill might have. She suggested that legislators who support charter schools should fix that problem if they want the bill to pass.

Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, a gay rights group, described it as radical for the House to remove the anti-discrimination clause. “It was not radical when our state Senate passed this bill with the language intact,” he said. “But what is radical is that this language was taken out, and our kids could not be subjected to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Another person who wanted the Senate anti-discrimination language restored was Cassie Burdyshaw, policy director for the ACLU in West Virginia. She cited national surveys that have found that about three-quarters of students who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual say they are harassed in their schools.

Other opponents of the bill expressed different concerns. Wendy Peters, a third-grade teacher at Daniels Elementary School in Raleigh County, expressed concern that one effect of charter schools would be better for students from wealthy families than those from poor families. She said some of her students need school not only for education but also for nutritious meals. They receive breakfast and lunch at school, she said, and when bad weather closed schools this winter, she worried about whether those students were getting enough to eat.

“Regardless of their circumstances, they deserve the best education and an equal shot at achieving their goals and dreams,” Peters said. “Public schools are the only chance for some of these kids.”

Presidents of the major teachers’ unions – Dale Lee of the West Virginia Education Association and Christine Campbell of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia – opposed the bill. Lee said he was concerned about what would happen to students with special needs or those who would choose not to go to charter schools. Campbell said she was afraid charter schools would drain the best teachers and students away from the non-charter schools. She said many charter schools have failed in other states.

Another union leader, Kenny Perdue, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, said charter schools would offer “neither fairness nor equal opportunity for students and employees.” He expressed concern about how charter schools would affect the rights of the people they would employ. “Under the current bill, education employees would become at-will employees and lose all due process rights,” he said. “The principal could fire an employee for no reason, and employees would have no recourse. The potential for misuse of authority in charter schools is staggering.”

Among the speakers in favor of charter schools was the Rev. Matthew Watts, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Charleston and a leader in the effort to revive Charleston’s West Side, including its low-performing schools. The community already is working on a pilot project that includes some extra flexibility for the schools, but Watts suggested that establishing charter schools could be even better for disadvantaged students.

“With all of our work, we still have some of the lowest-performing students in the entire state,” he said. “So I just believe that it’s time to give charter schools a chance.”

Charles Hageboeck, president of City National Bank, also supported the charter schools bill. “I’m increasingly concerned that our schools aren’t keeping up with the challenges that confront them,” he said. “While West Virginia spends nearly $13,000 per student per year, WESTEST scores show that over half our students are not proficient in math and reading. The problem isn’t that we aren’t spending enough money. The problem is a lack of accountability. I believe charter schools offer an opportunity for West Virginia to see that, when we provide good teachers with the opportunity to be innovative, outcomes will improve.”

Eugenie Taylor and Steve Roberts of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce expressed similar sentiments.

Another advocate of charter schools was Dr. William Sale of Charleston. He said he is the proud parent of a gay principal at a charter school that serves culturally underprivileged students on the South Side of Chicago. Students at that school have been outperforming their counterparts at non-charter schools, he said. “Since school choice for a good education is a desire that most families have for their children, charter schools broaden the choice of an educational alternative for lower-income families,” he said.



By Jim Wallace

NationalThe West Virginia Legislature’s 60-day regular session is scheduled to end at midnight Saturday night, so this week has been full of action on many bills, including dozens involving public education. Some bills have completed the legislative process and gone to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature, others are close to reaching the end of the process, and others likely are dead for this session.

Although the regular session will be over Saturday night, Tomblin already has issued a proclamation to give the legislature for more days to finish work on the budget bill. It typically takes at least a few days after the session ends to settle on a state budget because legislators need to figure out what the bills they passed do in terms of spending money and raising revenue.

Even though much work remains to be done on the budget, education sections of the budget already were the subject of debate in the House of Delegates this week. On Wednesday evening, when the House Bill 2016, which is one version of the budget bill, was on second reading the in House, delegates offered amendments that could have affected funding for the Department of Education.

One amendment offered by a few Republican delegates would have taken $22 million from various unclassified funds. Much of that funding would have been removed from the Department of Education’s budget. One of the sponsors, Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, complained that investments for the Teachers Retirement System made “extravagant gains this past year” with a return of 18 percent or so, but the extra money is scheduled to be used not to reduce the unfunded liability of the Teachers Retirement System but to plug part of the budget deficit. He said the amendment would avoid taking any money from the Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget for the fiscal year that will begin in July.

Another sponsor of that proposed amendment, Delegate Michael Folk, R-Berkeley, said approval of the proposed amendment would give the state budget a small surplus and avoid dipping into the Rainy Day Fund. “There’s two behemoths in this budget – has been every year since I’ve been here – DHHR [Department of Health and Human Resources] and Department of Education,” he said. “We discussed several years ago about implementing the audit, the special education audit. Well, this takes a big stab at the central office in the Department of Education. It also takes a big stab at DHHR, which has been the elephant in the budget room for many years for waste.”

But House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, said the amendment was flawed because it would free up only $1.2 million from the general revenue fund. The rest would come from special revenue accounts and federal revenue, so it only would reduce spending authority rather than capture any revenue that could be used to help balance the state budget. The House rejected the proposed amendment with only 14 votes in favor of it, 77 against it and nine members absent.

Another proposed amendment would have required the Department of Education to spend $100 million of its funding on entrepreneurship education. House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, sponsored the amendment and said such education could be provided at all grade levels from kindergarten through the 12th grade. “This will help people become business owners down the road,” he said. “And this is the way we can grow our economic base.”

Nelson opposed the amendment and pointed out that legislation passed last year requires the Department of Education to spend money on such programs from its 21st Century Innovation Zones line-item. He said he had been told the department has already solicited grant applications for such funding.

Miley said last year’s legislation did not require entrepreneurship education but only gave priority to Innovation Zone requests that include entrepreneurship education.  He said his amendment would require the Education Department to spend $100,000 of money already in its budget, rather than newly allocated money, on entrepreneurship education. “When we sought to abolish Common Core, as this body did, we addressed some concerns about the fiscal impact, but to the extent there was going to be any additional fiscal impact, we didn’t have as much concern as long as we abolished Common Core.” He said his amendment wouldn’t cost anything but just direct the department on how to spend its money.

The House defeated the amendment with 33 votes in favor of it, 58 against it and eight members absent. The House approved the budget bill on an 84-14-2 vote Thursday.

Today, the Senate took up the bill with the intention of amending provisions of the Senate counterpart, Senate Bill 233, into it. That would set up an expected House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two versions.

The legislature completed work on several bills this week, allowing them to go to the governor for his signature or veto. They include:

  • Senate Bill 19, which would specify minimum instruction hours and days for early childhood education programs and allow programs to operate four days per week rather than five days per week. The Senate approved it 34-0 on February 12. The House approved a similar bill on February 18. On Monday, the House Education Committee put provisions of the House bill into in the Senate bill. The House approved the bill 99-0-1 on Thursday. Today, the Senate accepted the changes the House made in the bill.
  • Senate Bill 287, which would allow high school diplomas to be award posthumously. The Senate approved it 33-0-1 on February 9. The House approved the bill 99-0-1 on Thursday.  Today, the Senate agreed to accept the House amendments to the bill.
  • House Bill 2139, which would restart expired provisions that allow retired teachers to be employed as substitutes in areas of critical need and shortage beyond the 140-day post-retirement employment limit. The House approved it 82-0-18 on February 20. The Senate approved the bill 34-0 on Thursday. It has gone to the governor for his signature.
  • House Bill 2370, which would expand the powers of the regional councils that oversee Regional Education Service Agencies. Those councils would get more say in the selection of executive directors of RESAs. The House approved it 99-0-1. The Senate approved the bill 33-0-1, so the bill has gone to the governor for his signature.
  • House Bill 2377, which would authorize the state school board to approve certain alternatives to instructional time proposed by a county school board or school. The House approved it 96-1-3. The Senate approved it 33-0-1 Thursday, so it has gone to the governor for his signature.
  • House Bill 2381 has gone to the governor. It would provide a $2,000 mentoring increment to teachers who have certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and who teach in persistently low-performing schools. The House approved the bill 94-0-6 on Saturday. The Senate approved it 33-0-1 on Wednesday, when Senate Finance Chairman Mike Hall, R-Putnam, referred to it as “a teacher pay raise bill.” Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said he enthusiastically supported raising pay not only for teachers with the national certification but also for all teachers. He noted that the legislature had dealt this session with many education issues, including alternative certification for teachers. “The reason we have an alternative certification issue is because there are not enough teachers in our classrooms – qualified, trained teachers in our classrooms,” Kessler said. “The reason for that is pure and simple: We don’t pay them enough. We don’t pay qualified teachers a competitive wage when you look at our surrounding states.” Link to Kessler pix: http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Senate1/lawmaker.cfm?member=Senator Kessler
  • House Bill 2502, which would authorize active law-enforcement officers and retired law-enforcement officers acting as security for schools to carry deadly weapons on a school bus, on school property or at school-sponsored functions when certain conditions are met. The House approved it 97-1-2 on Tuesday with only Delegate Frank Deem, R-Wood, opposed. The Senate approved it 33-0-1 on Wednesday, so the bill has gone to the governor.
  • House Bill 2550, which would increase the number of unexcused absences for students from five to 10 before action may be taken against parents, guardians or custodians of the students. The House approved it 95-2-3 last week. The two delegates opposed to it were Linda Phillips, D-Wyoming, and Doug Reynolds, D-Cabell. The Senate Education Committee made a few changes to the bill and then sent it to the full Senate. The Senate approved it Monday by a 31-2-1 vote with Doug Facemire, D-Braxton, and Bob Williams, D-Taylor, voting against it. The House and Senate worked out their differences in the bill, so it has gone to the governor.
  • House Bill 2632, which would exempt the procurement of instructional materials, digital content resources, instructional technology, hardware, software, telecommunications and technical services for use in and in support of public schools from Division of Purchasing requirements. The House voted 94-0-6 Wednesday to accept Senate changes in the bill. The Senate approved the bill 33-0-1. The House earlier approved its version 82-0-18. The bill has gone to the governor.
  • House Bill 2645, which would establish critical need alternative teaching certificates, provide for the requirements to obtain such certificates and provide criteria for the renewal of such certificates. The bill also would expand the availability of the Underwood-Smith Teacher Loan Assistance Program and increase the annual amount of assistance available from $2,000 to $3,000. The House approved the bill 97-0-3 last week. The Senate approved it 33-0-1 on Monday. It has gone to the governor for his signature.
  • House Bill 2702, which would redefine the service personnel class titles of early childhood classroom assistant teachers to smooth the transition of former early childhood aides to this new classification of school service personnel. The changes include protections from reduction in force or transfer for those aides eligible for full retirement benefits before July 1, 2020, to create vacancy for less senior early childhood classroom assistant teachers. The House approved the bill 97-0-3 on February 20. The Senate approved it 33-0-1 Monday. It has gone to the governor for his signature.
  • House Bill 2755, which would address seniority and other personnel issues relating to service and professional employee positions at jointly established schools. The House approved it 92-0-8 on February 23. The Senate approved the bill 33-0-1 on Monday. It has gone to the governor for his signature.


Pay raise for teachers is attempted.

More than a dozen bills were getting close to possibly completing the legislative process as the House and Senate headed into the final two days of the session. House Bill 2478 is one of those bills. It also was the target of an attempt this week to get a pay raise for teachers.

The bill was proposed by Gov. Tomblin to revise certain aspects of public school finance and the School Aid Formula. First, he wanted to eliminate the authority of growth county boards of education to designate regular school board levy revenues due to new construction or improvements to a Growth County School Facilities Act Fund. Second, the governor wanted to authorize propane as an eligible fuel for the 10 percent additional percentage allowance for school bus systems using alternative fuels. Another provision in the governor’s proposed version would have eliminated certain adjustments in the basic foundation program.

The original version also would have extended the bus replacement cycle from 12 years to 15 years, but the House changed that provision and the Senate Education Committee removed it. The Senate Finance Committee changed the bill by removing all provisions regarding local share and high-growth area allowances for professional educators. Senate Finance Chairman Mike Hall said that would have created a code conflict with the charter schools bill approved by the Senate. When his committee got through with the bill, all that was left was a one-year reduction in funding for replacement of school buses by $4 million from $22 million.

When the bill was up for consideration before the full Senate, Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, proposed amending it to give a $2,000 raise to every public school teacher in the state. He said the cost probably would be in the range of $55 million to $58 million.

“But you know the cost that we have of losing teachers and not having an educated workforce is probably far beyond that,” Kessler said. He suggested paying for it with a proposed tobacco tax that came up in the Senate Judiciary Committee to raise potentially $130 million or a “spirits” tax he proposed to put on liquor to raise about $8 million. He also suggested that some of the more than $200 million from a proposed 1 percent sales tax increase to provide more money for road repair and construction could be used to help pay for the pay raise for teachers.

Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, supported the proposed teacher pay raise. He said, “There’s no group that is charged with a greater responsibility than our teachers to raise the youth of West Virginia and make them successful and give them the tools they need to lead great adult lives. You get what you pay for in this world.”

Hall opposed the amendment but said it was hard to argue against those statements in favor of teacher pay raises. “I served for 20 years in the minority party, and I know from time to time we would look for amendments to make to bills that would kind of catch people in an awkward situation,” he said. “There’s no one that does not want to compensate well our educators.” He said the Senate could vote for a teacher pay raise and be able to campaign on it in the next election, but senators should know it would be defeated in the House.

Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, said he supported the amendment. “We talk about the $55 [million] or $58 million that will go into raising the income, but what’s the cost on that child of not having a certified, qualified teacher in that classroom?” he asked. “What is the cost over a long period of time in not having that person, that child, prepared for the workforce?”

Unger added that it seemed “a little bit hypocritical when we say we can’t afford paying teachers more to get qualified, certified teachers into the classroom” at the same time legislators were considering eliminating corporate net income taxes and reducing severance taxes.

Sen. Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, said the issue pained him. He said he has family members who are educators, but Nicholas County has been losing tax revenue from the decline in coal mining. “I think it would be irresponsible when we are losing people from the county government jobs and turn around and have to give our teachers a $2,000 raise,” he said. “I would love to give it to them. I believe in our teachers, and I know that they do a great job, but it would be irresponsible to approve this amendment. And we can’t afford to pay it.”

Likewise, Sen. Chris Walters, R-Putnam, opposed the amendment, although he said intention was good. The new Republican majority in the legislature received an $80 million budget shortfall and has had to find a way to fill it, he said, and there was no guarantee that any bill to increase revenue would be approved. He said that, in addition to raising the pay of teachers, he would like to give correctional officers, school service personnel and workers in the Department of Health and Human Resources raises.

“We have to have a fiscally responsible budget, and we were handed, as a new party coming in, a shortfall that we’re trying to climb out of so that we’re not continually putting the credit rating of the state of West Virginia in trouble,” Walters said.

At the end of the debate, Kessler said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen with the tobacco tax and whatever. I can’t do it alone, but you give me 18 votes [and] I got $130 million. I can tell you that.” He said that would send a message to the House. Instead, the Senate rejected the amendment on a 15-18-1 vote.

The Senate then approved the bill by a vote of 28-5-1 and asked the House, which previously approved its version of the bill 82-11-7, to concur with the Senate changes.


Other bills are close to the end.

Other bills that were close to completing the legislative process include:

  • Senate Bill 243, which would relax school nutrition standards during a state or emergency or state of preparedness. The Senate approved it 34-0 on February 12. The House Education Committee made a minor amendment and approved it Monday. On Wednesday, Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, tried to amend the bill to require each public school’s faculty senate and principal to adopt a plan regarding how the school would administer classroom celebrations and waive nutritional and caloric content requirements on food served during those celebrations. This year and last year, Campbell has been the sponsor of unsuccessful bills that would allow sweets to be served at elementary school parties. That is why, when House Education Chairwoman Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia, opposed the amendment, she said, “We have apparently reach the point in the session where, if we didn’t get all of our pet projects passed, we try to stick them wherever we think they go.” She challenged the amendment on whether it was germane to the bill, and Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, ruled it wasn’t. The House approved the bill 99-0-1 on Thursday.  Because the House amended the bill, the Senate must decide whether to accept the House version or seek to reconcile differences between the two versions through a conference committee.
  • Senate Bill 286, which would revise the process for providing medical exemptions from immunizations that are required for school attendance. The Senate approved it 34-0 on February 18. The House Judiciary Committee amended the bill. It was scheduled to be on second reading in the House today, meaning the House could pass the bill Saturday. But the House and Senate would have to reconcile the differences in their two versions of the bill.
  • Senate Bill 447, which would authorize a person who administers a program of secondary education at a public, private or home school to issue a diploma or other appropriate credential to a person who has completed the program of secondary education. The Senate approved it 33-0-1 last week. The House Education Committee amended the bill. It was scheduled for second reading in the House today. It could pass in the House on Saturday, but the Senate then would have to decide whether to accept the House changes or send the bill to a conference committee.
  • Senate Bill 537, which would change mandatory instructional time from days to the equivalent number of minutes. The Senate approved it 33-0-1 last month. The House Education Committee amended the bill. It was scheduled for second reading in the House today, meaning it could pass on Saturday. But then the Senate would have to decide whether to accept the House changes or send the bill to a conference committee.
  • House Bill 2005, which would authorize alternative certification programs for teachers, such as Teach for America. The House approved it 60-35-5 on February 10. The Senate Education Committee amended it and then approved it. The Senate Finance Committee then approved it. The bill was scheduled for third reading and possible passage in the Senate today. The House then would have to decide whether to accept the Senate changes or send the bill to a conference committee to work out differences.
  • House Bill 2140, which would establish a process to build governance and leadership capacity of county school boards during periods of state intervention. It would require county boards to establish goals and action plans for improvement and sustained success to end intervention in not more than five years. The goals and action plans would be subject to approval by the state school board and would have to include needed training and active engagement by the county boards in the improvement process. Progress on the goals and action plans would have to be assessed annually and reports would be made to the state board on the readiness of the county boards to accept return of control and sustain improvement. If a determination would be made at the fifth annual assessment that a county board is still not ready, the state board would have to hold a public hearing in the county so that the reasons for continued intervention and concerns of citizens could be heard. Continued intervention would be allowed only after the hearing. Supports for continued improvement would have to continue, as needed, for three years following the end of an intervention. For another intervention within that three-year period, another public hearing would have to be held. The House approved the bill 82-0-18 on February 20. It was scheduled for third reading and possible passage in the Senate today.
  • House Bill 2160, which would make the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind eligible for funding from the School Building Authority. The House approved it 95-0-5 on February 17. The Senate Education Committee approved it Monday. The Senate Finance Committee approved it today. It already has received two readings before the full Senate, which could pass the bill today or Saturday.
  • House Bill 2598, which would ensure that teachers of students with disabilities receive complete information about a school’s plan (known as a 504 plan) for accommodating the children’s disabilities. The House approved it 82-0-18 on February 20. The bill was scheduled for second reading in the Senate today, so it could pass on Saturday.
  • House Bill 2793, which would clarify that a student who is home-schooled may not be classified as habitually absent. The bill would require the parent of a child who is to be home-schooled to notify a county superintendent of intent to home-school and make other changes. The House approved it 94-0-6. The Senate had a long debate over the bill Thursday before approving it and requesting the House to accept the Senate changes.
  • House Bill 2840, which would provide an alternate means for students to make up lost instructional days by allowing county boards of education to distribute lessons on the Internet and through other means. The House approved it 97-1-2 on Tuesday. The one vote against it came from Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer. The bill was scheduled for second reading in the Senate today, so it could be passed on Saturday.
  • House Bill 2939, which would clarify and specifically include sexual misconduct by a student upon another student as warranting mandatory reporting to law enforcement. The bill makes failure to report such misconduct a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a fine of $10,000. The bill also would increase the penalty for other failures to report. The House passed the bill 86-9-5 last week. The Senate amended the bill to remove the penalty and change reporting requirements. The House refused to accept the Senate’s changes today, so a conference committee will have to work out differences between the two versions of the bill if it is to go to the governor.


Some bills died this week.

Several bills that made it through either the Senate or the House appear to be dead for the session. They include:

  • Senate Bill 420, which would provide retirement benefits for persons employed as aides or early classroom assistant teachers or braille or sign support specialists in kindergarten programs. The Senate approved it 34-0 last week. It went to the House Finance Committee, but did not move out of the committee, so it likely is dead for this session.
  • Senate Bill 457, which would permit West Virginia public school authorities to hire the most qualified athletic coaches to serve in the best interest of the student-athletes. The Senate approved it 33-0-1 last week. But it the House Education Committee did not act on it, so it likely is dead for this session.
  • House Bill 2151, which would make the West Virginia Teacher of the Year an ex-officio, nonvoting member of the state school board. The House approved it 95-1-4 on February 6. The bill went to the Senate Education Committee, which never acted on it, so it likely is dead for this session.
  • House Bill 2202, which would provide a more equitable disbursement of funds to county school boards to lessen the budgetary effects of serving high cost/high acuity special needs students. The House approved it 100-0 on February 26. The Senate Education Committee never acted on the bill, so it likely is dead for this session.
  • House Bill 2387, which would initiate a comprehensive transformation in school leadership through a process that would include broad stakeholder input under the state school board, which would develop recommendations to the legislature and the governor. The bill includes findings on the strong leadership observed in high-quality schools that develop climates and cultures of shared beliefs and values among the staff, shared responsibility for results and high expectations for all. Those findings also discuss various approaches to reward excellent teaching, provide time necessary for excellent teachers to lead instructional improvement, and enable excellent teachers to advance in their teaching careers and compensation in instructional leadership positions without leaving the classroom completely. The House approved it 97-0-3 on February 17. The Senate Education Committee did not act on the bill, so it likely is dead for this session.
  • House Bill 2391, which would authorize the state school board to grant annual waivers to county school boards to implement full-day early childhood education programs with children in attendance four days per week, rather than five, and use the fifth day for staff to work on program delivery to improve student learning. The House passed the bill 99-0-1. The Senate Education Committee did not act on the bill, so it likely is dead for this session.
  • House Bill 2474, which would authorize the state school board to establish salary schedules or additional compensation for teachers whose job duties require specialized training and skills or assignments in addition to regular instructional duties. The House approved it 97-0-3 last week. The Senate Finance Committee did not act on the bill, so it likely is dead for this session.
  • House Bill 2545, which would make a technical improvement in the language for reimbursement of teachers for fees upon enrollment, completion or renewal of National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. Currently completion is defined as submitting “ten scorable entries,” but the NBPTS has changed its definition several times over the years and the current statutory definition is no longer valid. The new language would require the submission of satisfactory evidence to the West Virginia Department of Education rather than relying on a specific parameter of the NBPTS that could change. The House approved the bill 82-0-18 on February 20. The Senate Education Committee never acted on the bill, so it likely is dead for this session.
  • House Bill 2717, which would provide transparency in the process of hiring employees of county school systems by requiring school boards to be informed of all persons who have applied to fill vacancies and the detailed qualifications of each applicant. The House voted 63-31-6 to approve the bill on Wednesday. The bill received two full Senate readings, but it was sent to the Senate Education Committee, which did not act on it, so it likely is dead for this session.
  • House Bill 3017, which would address problems of sudden cardiac arrest among athletes in interscholastic activities. The House approved it 97-0-3 last week. But the Senate Education Committee failed to act on it, so it likely is dead for this session.


Governor has approved a few bills.

Prior to this week, Gov. Tomblin already had signed three bill affecting public education into law. They included:

  • Senate Bill 7, which would require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and care for conscious choking to be taught in the public school system as a condition of graduation. It will be effective July 1, 2015.
  • Senate Bill 238, which would provide that county boards of education are not liable for loss or injury from the use of school property made available for unorganized recreation. It will be effective May 26, 2015.
  • House Bill 2669, which would eliminate the statutory requirements for tuberculosis testing for school children and school personnel who are at low risk for tuberculosis. This type of testing is no longer recommended, and the cost of conducting the testing is unjustified by the results. An active case of tuberculosis has never been discovered through this testing. It will be effective May 26, 2015.


Delegates would like to take money away from state board.

Also this week, legislative committees have been approving resolutions that could lead into studies that legislators would conduct during interim meetings leading up to next year’s regular legislative session.

One such resolution approved by the House Education Committee requests a study on reducing the budget of the state school board and redirecting the funds toward increasing teacher salaries.

At the end of the committee’s discussion of the resolution, Delegate Roy Cooper, R-Summers, commented that it would undo some of Senate Bill 359, which was the big education reform bill two years ago. Later, he explained his comments this way: “Senate Bill 359 was an overreach and was also selective in the issues it addressed. The bill only addressed issues that were found within counties and failed to comprehensively address the broader issue of top heavy management, excessive bureaucracy, and wasted resources at West Virginia Department of education, West Virginia Board of Education and at the various Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs). In short, the bill only addressed issues in the trenches and failed to react to the main thrust of the ‘audit’: that of over-management and bloated bureaucracy.”

The Resolution, House Concurrent Resolution 110, has not been moved from House Rules to the full House.