Saturday marked the end of this year’s regular legislative session, much of which focused on education.
That was mostly because of the education overhaul bill (Senate Bill 451), in which Republican leaders bundled their promised public school worker pay raises with many other things, including legalizing charter schools and funding about 400 more student support personnel, like social workers and psychologists.
The House of Delegates rejected the bill Feb. 19 after delegates tried to compromise with the Senate on numerous changes and school workers held a statewide strike against the Senate’s last amended version. Portions of that bill could re-emerge in the education- and pay raise-special session announced by Gov. Jim Justice.
The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Tuesday another lightning rod bill: House Bill 2519, which would have allowed people to have concealed guns on college campuses.
The Legislature did manage to pass the free community college tuition bill (SB 1), which is awaiting Justice’s signature or veto.
Here’s what happened to the other education bills this year that the Gazette-Mail reported on:
Ending statewide higher education master plan — The statewide master plan for public higher education would be eliminated, generally weakening the state higher education oversight agencies’ power to oversee colleges, if the governor signs SB 673.
The Senate refused Friday to agree to the House’s Wednesday amendment, which would’ve expanded the bill to exempt Fairmont State and Shepherd universities from more state Higher Education Policy Commission oversight than the bill would exempt other four-year public colleges from.
The House backed down from its amendment Saturday and passed the bill 84-14, sending it to Justice for his signature or veto. Delegates Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, and Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell, were absent.
ACT choice for counties — The state Board of Education would be required to allow county boards of education to use tests other than the SAT as their standardized test for 11th graders, if the governor signs SB 624.
The legislation lists the ACT, and no other tests, as an example of what the alternative could be. The ACT lost a bid against the SAT to become West Virginia’s default high school statewide standardized test.
The Senate amended the bill and passed it back to the House Friday, with only Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, voting no.
The House agreed to the Senate’s changes and voted Saturday to send the bill to Justice. Delegate Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall, was the only no vote, and Ellington and Rohrbach were absent.
College bid dodging — Public colleges and universities could circumvent bidding rules to receive “financial services” by using their foundations, if the governor signs HB 3020.
The version the House passed would’ve allowed public colleges and universities to use their foundations to skirt bidding requirements for “materials, goods, equipment, services, printing, facilities, or financial services, including, but not limited to, a lease purchase or a direct issue of special revenue bonds.”
The Senate amended the bill to restrict the bidding exemption to just be for financial services, and voted Saturday to send it back to the House. Sen. Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, was the only no vote.
The House agreed to the Senate’s amendment and passed the bill 94-5 Saturday, with Delegate Roy Cooper, R-Summers, absent.
School bus cameras — All school buses that county school boards buy, starting July 1, would be required to have forward- and rear-facing cameras, if the governor signs Senate Bill 238.
The state Department of Education has estimated this will cost the state about $830,000 per year. It estimated the cost to school boards as zero.
The bill also would increase the driver’s license suspension times and the minimum and maximum fines for illegally passing school buses.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously Feb. 25.
The House passed it Thursday, with only Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, voting no. Nine delegates were absent.
Celebrate Freedom Week — Public and private school students would no longer have to study America’s founding documents during the week of Sept. 11, if the governor signs House Bill 2422.
In 2017, the Legislature passed House Bill 3080, creating “Celebrate Freedom Week” and requiring it to be during that week.
“The purpose of Celebrate Freedom Week is to educate students about the sacrifices made for freedom in the founding of this country and the values on which this country was founded,” the law says now.
This year’s bill would let individual county school boards instead pick when Celebrate Freedom Week occurs, and it would add the Emancipation Proclamation to the Declaration of Independence and Constitution as the specific documents that must be studied that week.
The House passed the bill 98-0 Jan. 24, and the Senate passed it 33-0 Friday. Sen. Kenny Mann, R-Monroe, was absent.
Opening 529 plans to fund private K-12 school tuition — Taxpayers could invest in Smart529 college savings accounts to pay for tuition at private K-12 schools, including religious ones, if the governor signs Senate Bill 670.
The House passed the bill Friday, with only Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, voting no. Absent were Delegates Mark Dean, R-Mingo, and Sharon Lewis Malcolm, R-Kanawha.
The Senate passed it unanimously Feb. 26.
Assistant State Treasurer Josh Stowers said he believes the federal tax overhaul allowed states to add this flexibility, but did not mandate them to do so.
529 plans allow people to save money tax deferred, so they don’t have to pay taxes on that money at all as long as it’s used for qualified expenses, which under this bill would only be tuition for the private K-12 schools.
Tazuer Smith, deputy treasurer for college savings, said taxpayers could, for each child, get an up to $10,000 annual deduction on their taxable income for state income tax purposes for money spent on private school tuition.
School shooting response, safety training — Students and all school employees would have to annually receive active shooter training and first aid training, if the governor signs House Bill 2541.
Schools would also have to have room numbers on exterior walls or windows so police and first responders could identify rooms with exterior walls. And county school systems would have to provide first responders and local police updated school floor plans by Sept. 1 of each year.
The Senate passed the bill 33-0 Friday, with only Mann absent. The House agreed to the Senate’s amendments 97-0 Friday, with Delegates Cooper, Dean and Malcolm absent.
Anti-hazing — People could be convicted of hazing for endangering others or causing them to destroy or steal property in order to join or stay part of “any organization whose members include” college students, if the governor signs Senate Bill 440.
The current anti-hazing law only targets initiation and membership requirements for college-recognized or college-sanctioned organizations.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously Feb. 12. The House passed it 75-22 Feb. 28, with Delegates Andrew Byrd, D-Kanawha, Tim Miley, D-Harrison, and Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, absent.
Hazing would continue to be a misdemeanor, carrying a fine of $100-$1,000 or up to nine months in jail, or both.
Concussions — Public middle and high schools that don’t follow state rules for dealing with sports-related concussions will be subject to discipline rules created by the Secondary School Activities Commission, if the governor signs Senate Bill 605.
The rules must have the state Board of Education sign off.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously Feb. 27, and the House passed it unanimously Friday.
Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, is the bill’s lead sponsor.
She said the SSAC has some disciplinary rules currently, but they “really didn’t have any teeth at all.” But lawmakers didn’t specify in the bill what kind of discipline the SSAC must take against various infractions.
Bernie Dolan disagreed that the current rules don’t have teeth. In his four years as executive director of the SSAC, he said he hasn’t heard of any violations of the concussion protocol and has never had to use the discipline.
‘Mastery-based’ education — There would be a new “mastery-based” category of Innovation in Education schools, if the governor signs House Bill 2009.
Schools could apply to use the mastery-based model.
Mastery-based would be defined to include several “core principles,” including “student advancement upon mastery of a concept or skill” and “differentiated support based on a student’s individual learning needs.”
Students in these schools essentially would progress to further classes based not on time, but on showing mastery in a lesson.
The House passed the bill 95-0 Jan. 25, and the Senate, after backing down from its amendments, passed it 21-12.
Special education cameras — Public school special education classrooms would be required to have video cameras, if the governor signs Senate Bill 632.
The House passed the bill 87-9 Friday, with four delegates absent, after delegates amended it Thursday to only require the cameras if the Legislature provides funding and to remove from the bill parents’ specific right in the legislation to see videos involving their children.
The Senate refused Saturday to agree with removing that right. It amended the right back in and voted 30-4 Saturday to send the bill back to the House. The House accepted the Senate’s return of parental viewing rights to the bill, and passed the bill 91-2, with seven delegates absent.
The education department estimated the statewide cost at $7 million, and delegates said $3.5 million had been provided through the budget bill the House and Senate agreed to Friday.
The Senate version says parents and guardians of students involved in alleged incidents like bullying, abuse and neglect could view the videos. Incidents would be defined as suspicions raised by parents, guardians, teachers or aides.
‘Clean’ pay raise — Public school workers would have received raises had House Bill 2730 passed.
Hours after the House killed the education overhaul bill, Justice urged lawmakers to pass this bill, which included the raises that were in the overhaul bill but none of the other provisions. Most Senate Republicans blocked it from being passed.
School psychologists — School systems would’ve been required to have at least one school psychologist per thousand kindergarten- through seventh-grade students “in net enrollment or major faction thereof,” had House Bill 2397 passed.
The education department estimated it would require about 50 more school psychologists statewide, at a total cost of $3.8 million.
The bill would not have given school systems extra money for the psychologists.
The House passed the bill Feb. 27 with no delegate voting no and only Byrd absent. The Senate never took it up.
A Department of Health and Human Resources report in December concluded that West Virginia public schools need roughly 270 more psychologists, alongside 380 more counselors and 700 more social workers, and increases in other positions.
But that DHHR recommendation cited a National Association of School Psychologists’ recommendation of one per 500-700 students, more stringent than the bill’s ratio.
Closed-door strike discussions — Public governing boards, including county boards of education, could have legally gone behind closed doors to discuss matters “related to or arising from a concerted work stoppage or strike by employees of the public agency,” if this unnumbered House Education Committee originating bill had passed.
On Feb. 21, the day it popped up in the committee, Delegate Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, successfully moved to table this “executive session” expansion, ending discussion on it then. It never resurfaced.
School facilities funding cut — County systems could’ve seen school construction, renovation and repair money reduced by $24 million annually, if House Bill 2865 had passed.
Also, the bill would’ve, according to the education department, increased dollars provided to counties for every Advanced Placement and dual-credit course students take. Students can earn college credits in high school through such courses.
Had the bill passed, lawmakers could’ve still decided to provide the $24 million annually, but the School Building Authority’s legal guarantee to receive it would be gone.
House Education passed the bill in early February, but it never got past the House Finance Committee.
Private- and home-school tax credits — Taxpayers could’ve received an up to $250 personal income tax credit for qualifying private- and home-schooling expenses for each dependent child, had House Bill 3063 passed.
The state tax commissioner would’ve defined “qualifying expenses.” The definition would’ve been required to include at least “tuition, books, and other necessary curriculum materials.”
House Education passed the bill, but it never got through House Finance.
Faith-based drug prevention — Schools would’ve been able to have “faith-based electives for drug awareness in classrooms,” had Senate Bill 379 passed.
The House never took it up after the Senate passed it in a Feb. 27 vote with only Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, voting no.
The bill would’ve said the state school board must create “a rule on how the faith-based electives can be offered in a way that is consistent with constitutional requirements.”
Air conditioning on buses — School buses purchased after July 1 of this year would’ve been required to have air conditioning, had House Bill 2688 passed.
Amy Willard, from the state Department of Education, said the department believed the bill would’ve also increased the state’s annual bus replacement funding to pay for this added cost. The department estimated that added cost next school year would’ve been $1.6 million.
According to a survey, about 660 of the 3,900 buses statewide already have AC.
House Education passed the bill out of committee Feb. 15, but it never got past House Finance.
Guaranteed land-grant funding for WVSU and WVU — The state would’ve been required to fully match federal land-grant funding for West Virginia University and West Virginia State University each year, had Senate Bill 553 passed.
The state hasn’t been doing that for WVSU. While this bill failed, meaning there’s still no legal requirement that the state fully match, the Legislature’s budget for next fiscal year, at least, would fully match the federal dollars for WVSU.
University President Anthony Jenkins said his school is currently about $1.4 million short of matching every federal land-grant dollar with one state dollar, and school officials have expressed concern that the current U.S. administration will pull all the federal dollars if the match isn’t provided.
The Senate passed the bill Feb. 20, with Sens. Sue Cline, R-Wyoming, and Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, absent. House Education passed the bill but it never got through House Finance.
In-state tuition for military — Active members of a reserve unit or members of other U.S. armed forces who are living in West Virginia could’ve attended college at in-state tuition rates, had Senate Bill 39 passed.
Current law says active members of the National Guard are eligible for in-state tuition rates, but it doesn’t include other parts of the military.
The Senate Education Committee advanced the bill on Feb. 5, but it never got past the Senate Finance Committee.
Shortened school year — School boards could’ve reduced the number of instructional days per school year from 180 to 170, had House Bill 2433 passed.
The bill would’ve also banned school boards from starting classes before Sept. 1 or ending them after May 31. Schools operating on “balanced,” often called year-round, calendars would’ve been exempt.
The House Rules Committee removed the bill from its active legislative calendar Feb. 25, two days before the day by which bills generally must be passed out of their chamber of origin to survive.
Home- and private-schoolers and sports — Home- and private-school students would’ve had greater access to public school sports and other public school extracurricular activities, had House Bill 3127 passed.
The House rejected the bill Feb. 27, with only 46 members voting yes.
The legislation, often called the “Tim Tebow Bill,” said “a public school may not deny the enrollment in any curricular or extracurricular course, program or activity of any person to whom the schools are open who meets the student health, safety, conduct and residence conditions established for any other student.”
GPA exemption from remediation — State law would’ve said colleges could rely on grade point averages to let students avoid remedial education, even if they don’t meet state-set thresholds on the SAT, ACT, Accuplacer or other tests, had House Bill 2095 passed.
Regardless, the state’s higher education oversight agencies have passed policies to allow what this bill would’ve done.
The House unanimously passed the bill Jan. 23, but the Senate never took it up.
Free feminine hygiene products -- Fifth-through 12th-grade girls who need tampons and sanitary napkins would’ve had free access to them in public schools, had Senate Bill 86 passed.
The Senate passed the bill Feb. 23, with only Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, voting no, and Sens. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, Kenny Mann, R-Monroe, and Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, absent. The House never took it up.