The West Virginia House of Delegates will have to decide what to do with the ”Student Success Act” (Senate Bill 1039) that the state Senate passed Monday.
Both chambers are Republican controlled, but Republican delegates weren’t unified behind the “omnibus” education bill (Senate Bill 451) that senators pushed during the regular legislative session.
The House killed SB 451 and Republican Gov. Jim Justice allowed a special legislative session on education. Republican senators have used that session to pass the similar SB 1039.
The House is set to reconvene for the special session on June 17. It has created four “select committees on education reform” for this session.
House leaders might try to pass SB 1039 or dismantle it and attempt to pass parts of it as separate bills. Delegates also might pass unrelated education bills. Senators would have to agree to any changes for the bills to become law.
The Gazette-Mail explained SB 1039 in an Education Overhaul Bill Guide, but the legislation saw some significant changes by the time the Senate passed it Monday. So, here’s a new version of the guide.
Below, in alphabetical order, are most of the ways SB 1039 would affect students, parents and school workers:
A teacher’s recommendation on whether a student should move to the next grade level “shall be a primary consideration,” the bill says.
Parents would be less likely to face arrest if their child accrues 10 unexcused absences during a school year.
Existing law saying the school system “shall make a complaint” before a county magistrate would be changed to “may make a complaint.”
Also, when a student currently gets five unexcused absences, the student and a parent or guardian must go to the school to talk within five days of receiving notice.
Existing law provides for the “adjustment of unexcused absences” based upon that student-parent-school meeting.
The bill would nix the meeting requirement and cut the reference to absence adjustment.
At three and five unexcused absences, the school system would have to “make meaningful contact” with the parent or guardian to figure out what’s causing the absences and how the school may help.
County school systems would have increased freedom in how they spend the money they receive through the state school aid funding formula. While the formula would still calculate how much money counties should receive for certain expenses, once counties would receive that money, they could spend it, to a greater extent, as they please.
An unlimited number of charter schools would be legalized in West Virginia.
The state Board of Education would be allowed to turn the Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, in Romney, into a charter school.
State and federal education dollars would be moved from the public school system and given to charter schools for each student who transfers.
Governing boards, which would be independent from county boards of education and could be unelected, would lead charter schools, which also could hire private companies to run their operations.
County school boards would decide whether to approve applications to create charter schools and would help oversee them.
School boards would be required to approve charter school applications that meet the bill’s requirements and which “demonstrate the ability to operate the school in an educationally and fiscally sound manner, and are likely to improve student achievement through the program detailed in the charter application.”
The state Board of Education could authorize charter schools in counties where the local school board decides not to be an authorizer. And, even if the county school board does decide to be an authorizer and then denies a charter school application, the applicant could appeal to the state board.
The bill allows new charter schools and those that are converted from existing public schools.
One part of the bill says, “A local county board or other public entity shall make facilities available to the charter school that are either not used in whole or in part for classroom instruction.” It also mandates that the rent cost for the charter school to use the facility “must be at or under current market value.”
Charter schools could be free from much of the regulations governing public schools, including those regulating who they can hire and fire, and for what reasons. The bill also doesn’t include any teacher certification requirements.
A charter school could enroll any student in the state, but wouldn’t be required to provide transportation. The bill doesn’t ban charter schools from being online charter schools.
If there are more students applying to get in than spaces available, random lotteries would be used to determine placement.
The bill says “no elected official may profit or receive any monetary consideration from a charter school,” although a public school that converts into a charter school could continue employing an elected official who already works there.
Students no longer would be guaranteed a minimum number of instructional minutes per school day. Instead, an average of five hours per school day would be required.
That’s 300 minutes per day, which is the existing minimum required for early childhood education, 15 minutes less than the minimum for elementary school grades, 30 minutes less than the minimum for middle school grades and 45 minutes less than the minimum for high school grades.
The changes would allow for some days to have zero instructional time, so long as the average of five hours daily over the school year is maintained.
Existing law provides some exemptions to the minimum length of the school day, but doesn’t go this far.
Also, public hearings on school calendars could be posted “prominently” on school websites, rather than in newspapers.
Counselors would have to increase their time spent “in a direct counseling relationship with pupils” to at least 80 percent of their work time, up from existing law’s 75 percent requirement.
County school boards would be freed to pay teachers in “critically needed” or hard-to-fill subjects and geographic areas more than other teachers.
The bill also would remove a statewide pay-equalizing provision that keeps some counties’ pay from greatly exceeding the pay in other counties. Right now, counties can differ to a limited extent.
Regarding the state minimum salary schedules, teachers who primarily work as certified math teachers would be considered to have three extra years of experience on the salary schedule, which generally provides annual automatic pay bumps based on years of service.
The same would go for full-time, certified special education teachers.
Elementary and middle schools in a pilot project would, if lawmakers provide funding, be given resources for “an extensive curriculum related to digital literacy, online assessment preparation, and internet safety.”
The bill says the state school board may hire a third party to “facilitate the project,” and says the third party must have experience in similar initiatives and must provide certain services.
Exceptional students fund
County school boards would be allowed to create “an exceptional needs fund from surpluses for students who are likely to perform better outside of the public school setting.”
The bill would say each county’s policy may include “the qualifying expenses” the money may be used for, and “measures for protecting against improper use of the funds which may include auditing all expenditures related to an individual student” and “eligibility requirements for education service providers that can accept payments from the fund.”
The bill’s proposals could mean tens of millions of dollars more for county school systems.
The bill would drop the “local share” portion of the state school aid funding formula from 90 percent to 85 percent, which would generally increase state funding for county school systems.
County school systems’ “allowance for current expense” would increase by 1 percentage point of another calculation.
Counties with fewer than 1,400 public school students would be given more money. Existing law does fund these counties for students they don’t have, but the bill would alter the calculation.
Unknown is the possible statewide impact of public school students moving to charter schools. The state aid formula generally drops funding when enrollment drops.
Read the student support personnel section for information on extra funding for positions such as nurses and social workers. Also, read the raises section.
Innovation in Education
Innovation in Education schools are allowed to request waivers of state laws and state school board policies. The existing law says the plan for an Innovation in Education school shall include “any exemptions to rule, policy or statute the school is seeking.” The new bill would add the words “subject to approval of the state board” to the end of that sentence, possibly giving the state board the go-ahead to excuse Innovation in Education schools from state laws they don’t want to follow.
Application and state monitoring requirements regarding creating and overseeing Innovation in Education schools, formerly known as Innovation Zones, also would generally be reduced.
See: Innovation in Education
A teacher who doesn’t use more than four leave days during a school year would get a $500 bonus at the end of that year.
Also, the number of days an employee could use annually “without regard to the cause for the absence” would increase from three to four.
Loan forgiveness (teachers)
See: Differential pay
Mountaineer Challenge Academy
The governor would be required to expand the Mountaineer Challenge Academy, a military-like school for academically challenged students that is affiliated with the West Virginia National Guard.
The existing location, in Preston County, would expand to allow for 600 cadets annually, and a second location would be established in Fayette County. The Senate president said the plan is for it to be in Montgomery, on property formerly belonging to the West Virginia University Institute of Technology.
See: Student support personnel
Students would be able to attend public schools in counties they don’t live in if the receiving county’s school board approves, regardless of what the school board of the county losing the student decides.
See: Student support personnel
Raises (for employees, generally)
School employees would see the raises Republican leaders promised a month before the November elections. The raises are $2,120 for each teacher, for example.
Sick days (for school workers)
See: Student support personnel
County school boards could choose to downplay the role that years of experience play in choosing which workers to lay off and whether to transfer laid-off employees into other jobs.
County superintendents could not close schools in anticipation of a strike or to help a strike.
The bill also would say public worker strikes are unlawful, that school workers may be fired if they strike, that school employees’ pay may be withheld on strike days and that schools would not be able to take part in extracurricular activities on instructional days canceled because of strikes.
Student support personnel
“Professional student support personnel” would be redefined to include not just counselors and nurses, but also those “providing direct social and emotional support services to students, as well as professional personnel addressing chronic absenteeism.”
During the regular legislative session, the state estimated this would provide $24 million more annually for such workers, adding 390 statewide.
Public and private school classroom teachers and some other types of educators could get up to $250 in annual income tax credits to buy supplies or pay for training.
The other types of educators who would benefit would be: classroom aides, early childhood classroom assistants, autism mentors, braille specialists, paraprofessionals, sign language assistant teachers, educational sign language interpreters and sign support specialists.
Training for teachers “should be individualized at the school level based on the needs of the students and employees of the school, the recommendations of classroom teachers, and appropriate data where a need for school improvement has been identified,” the bill would say.
See: Open enrollment
The bill would change this scholarship and student loan repayment program for teachers in myriad ways.