Legislative Update: Jan. 19

Rumors, Funding, & Data
Your help is needed! Over the weekend and early next week, we need you to talk to your legislators and urge them to oppose an omnibus education bill and run separate bills on each of the items. See more about the omnibus bill rumors below.

This Week’s Major Hubbub:

Before we begin, we must discuss the events this week where freshman delegate from our district, Caleb Hanna co-sponsored a bill to allocate approximately $10 million of state funds to the federal government to build President Trump’s Mexican border wall. Let’s be clear that such a bill is unequivocally unconstitutional under the West Virginia Constitution. The West Virginia Constitution states in Article 10, Section 5 that: “The power of taxation of the Legislature shall extend to provisions for the payment of the state debt, and interest thereon, the support of free schools, and the payment of the annual estimated expenses of the state; but whenever any deficiency in the revenue shall exist in any year, it shall, at the regular session thereof held next after the deficiency occurs, levy a tax for the ensuing year, sufficient with the other sources of income, to meet such deficiency, as well as the estimated expenses of such year.” Essentially the Legislature can only levy taxes and appropriate revenue from such taxes to pay for state debt and interest, fund public schools, and pay the annual estimated expenses in the state budget. Other sections of the state constitution give the Legislature the authority to appropriate money and levy taxes to maximize federal matching grants for public projects within the state and to allocate monies to political subdivisions within the state. Bottom line is that this bill will die a quiet death like so many other ridiculous bills. Unfortunately the fact that Hanna represents our district casts a shadow over us. 

Many people have been asking why Hanna would sign on to sponsor such a ridiculous piece of legislation when the state has so many pressing needs related to education, road maintenance, economic development, addiction treatment, job training, foster care, and more. You will have to ask him for yourself. Hanna has not made any public statements since this proposed legislation was first reported by MetroNews and the Charleston Gazette. His capitol office phone is: (304) 340-3916; his legislative email is: caleb.hanna@wvhouse.gov; and his office is located in Room 220E (east wing) of the capitol. 

Omnibus Education Bill Rumors Swirling:

A rumor picking up steam in the Senate is that leadership will introduce soon and ram through an omnibus bill trying to divide teachers, service personnel, parents, administrators, and community members in an attempt to kill off public education. First of all, an omnibus bill is a bill that contains a variety of issues and subjects. While these are common at the federal level, they are unconstitutional according to the state constitution when done at the state level. Article VI; Section 30 of the West Virginia Constitution clearly states that “no act hereafter passed shall embrace more than one object…” The WV Supreme Court has upheld that requirement in a number of their decisions.

Speculation is that the senate leadership will put a 5% pay raise and PEIA funding into the omnibus bill along with provisions allowing charter schools, eliminating seniority, allowing vouchers, education savings accounts, and privatization. Their hope is that by linking pay and PEIA to charter schools, seniority, etc., they will be able to divide all the eduction constituent groups and force moderate legislators to vote for it. Tell your Senators that an omnibus bill is wrong, and that legislation needs to be considered separately and passed on its own worthiness. Ask your delegates to oppose an omnibus bill and if one is delivered to them by the Senate to break it up and vote on each measure separately.

Just a refresher: education savings accounts are not like the SMART 529 program that many people use to save for their child’s college education. Education savings accounts would model the failed Arizona model where parents of students with special needs and IEPs would be allowed to pull their kid out of public school and receive the sum of the money that the county school district would receive to educate that child: approximately $7000. The parent would then be allowed to spend that money as they saw fit to educate their child with little to no oversight. 

Charter schools suck public school money and throw it to private schools and private, corporately-owned charter school companies to operate schools within counties. Charter schools routinely engage in de facto discrimination by not allowing students with disabilities, behavior problems, etc. to enroll. They also drain resources from the public school district in which they are located and they have been subject to a variety of frauds. Recently, WCHS purchased at a surplus auction some computer furniture and desks from a charter school in Akron, Ohio that was forced to liquidate due to a fraud investigation that found the school was enrolling students who didn’t exist, keeping graduated and transferred students on their rolls, and more to siphon more state and district tax dollars. That is one of the smaller cases of fraud that has encircled charter schools recently. Plus, numerous studies have shown that charter schools at best show no improvement on academic outcomes and at worst, decrease academic outcomes for students compared to public schools. 

State Aid Formula Revisions:The funding formula that provides most of the money for the operation of our public schools had not significantly changed in the last 30 years. Yet, the needs of our schools have drastically changed and the cost of everything associated with educating our students has gone up.From iPads to HVAC systems, the cost of providing a thorough and efficient education for our children has drastically changed. Couple rising costs with the societal issues that now exist in our schools and our system is stretched past its limits.The need for smaller classes; more aides, counselors, nurses and psychologists; alternative learning centers; etc. all require additional funding in the school aid formula.Yet at the same time we are in need of more funding to better serve our students; the percentage of the state budget devoted to education is at an all-time low. Money to our public schools comprised 54% of the state budget in the mid-90s. Today that figure is 42%.Over the last decade the state has given back $528 million through reduced taxes – mostly for businesses. And they are still proposing a repeal of the ‘inventory’ tax which is another $130-$140 million reduction in state revenue.Taxes on businesses are a very small cost of their overhead and it pays for public services that manufactures need such as schools, roads and public safety.The repeal of the inventory tax without a replacement revenue source will lead to loss of revenue for our public schools and local governments. It will cause cutbacks in services and harm our students.The tax breaks already given to businesses throughout the years simply shifts the burden of paying for our government to individuals. Personal income taxes account for 42% of the governor’s proposed budget. Together, the B&O tax, corporate net income tax and severance taxes account for only 13% of the state’s budget.WVEA opposed the repeal of the Business Inventory Tax and supports additional funding to our public schools to adequately provide for the needs of our students.

Data:

State Superintendent Steve Paine presented a data report to the House Education Committee that showed some positives for students and educators. Some of the highlights include:

WV is 1st in the nation in students who participate in breakfast at school

WV is 17th in the nation per capita in the percentage of Nationally Board Certified Teachers

WV is in the top 5 in the nation in our graduation rate. We are now at 90.2%

WV’s lower income students are scoring in the top 10 nationally when compared to similarly situated students in other states

Dr. Paine touched on our student’s perceived low scores on national tests. Paine stated that one of the stronger influences on student test scores is the academic attainment of the parents. WV ranks 50th in the nation inthe percentage of adults age 25-65 with a bachelor’s degree.

Dr. Paine also explained the priorities of the WVDE:

To increase math scores and the overall achievement for students of all grades

To lower the absent rates of students

To fund computer science courses in all high schools. This would make WV the first state in the nation to do so.

To support workforce readiness programs

To look at alternative education programs/options for elementary students

Education Bills Moving:

HB 2128 passed the House and is headed to the Senate. The bill allows state employees to be able to take paid leave to attend parent/teacher conferences. The bill’s sponsor is Delegate Caputo and it was his intent to have the bill apply to education employees also, but education employees are classified as county employees. Delegate Caputo will urge the Senate to make an amendment to the bill once it is taken up in committee in order to clarify his intent.

HB 2095 would allow 12th grade students in transitional program classes to take periodic exams to measure progress and eliminates the need to take an end of the year test again. It would allow colleges to look at these other tests and factors to determine the need for remedial courses. It is on the House floor.

HB 2378 would cause a teacher to lose their license if convicted of a crime that would require them to file as a sex offender. A sub-committee was created to discuss this bill. All further action on the bill has been postponed until the House Education Committee meeting Wednesday, January 23. Sub-committee members include Steve Westfall, Matthew Rohrbach, Jeff Campbell, Ed Evans, John R. Kelly, Chris Toney, Robert Thompson and Lisa Zukoff.

HB 2145 is the governor’s bill on teaching computer science in all state high schools. The bill would go into effect in the 2021 school year. The bill passed House Education and heads to House Finance.

SB 1 is the free tuition for community and technical college students. SB 1 is supported by the Governor and Senator Carmichael and has an estimated cost of $7 million. The bill is scheduled to be taken up by the Senate Finance committee.

HB 2422 is the Celebrate Freedom Bill passed last year. Last year’s bill required educators teach the constitution during the week of September 11th. 2422 would still require the constitution be taught but give educators flexibility on when they decide to teach it. Delegate Hornbuckle also moved to amend the bill to include the emancipation proclamation as one of the historical texts taught during this time. Both the amendment and the bill passed the committee.

Keep Updated:

WCEA keeps a bill tracking list of education-related bills available through the Legislature’s website. This allows our members to read bills for themselves and keep tabs on things as they move through the process. 

Log in here. 
The username is: jmknotts
The password is wceamember

The list name is K12Education and please don’t modify things on it. 

Make sure you also follow WVEA Lobbyline. Lobbyline is updated nightly with a recap of the day’s events. 

You can also check out the WVEA’s weekly Legislative Update.

Please start contacting our legislators to let them know that we support and desperately need increased school funding, competitive pay and benefits, and a fix for PEIA. Let them know that we strongly oppose charter schools, vouchers, education savings accounts, eliminating seniority, and other things that detrimentally affect our kids. 

Senator Bill Hamilton:
bill.hamilton@wvsenate.gov
Room 223W (west wing)
Office Phone: (304) 357-7906
Home Phone: (304) 472-1966
Mobile: (304) 439-5261

Senator Greg Boso:
greg.boso@wvsenate.gov
Room 217W (west wing)
Office Phone: (304) 357-7973
Home Phone: (304) 872-1308
Business Phone: (304) 872-2911

Delegate Caleb Hanna:
Education Committee Member
caleb.hanna@wvhouse.gov
Room 220E (east wing)
Office Phone: (304) 340-3916

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