After delay, W.Va. Senate passes amended ed bill

W.Va. Senate amend, passes Tomblin's education bill to House after delay

Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education proposal headed to the House of Delegates on Monday after the Senate agreed to last-minute changes pushed by groups representing teachers and school workers.

As amended, the measure passed unanimously by the Senate scraps the governor's invitation of the nonprofit Teach for America program into state classrooms. Lawmakers would instead study ways to offer alternative paths for certifying teachers.

The changes cut from 12 to six the days Tomblin proposed freeing up in the school calendar to ensure 180 days of student instruction. It keeps his language ending teacher pay for snow days — weather routinely leaves county schools short of state law's 180-day mandate — and allows counties to add days outside of the calendar to reach that goal. Monday's bill also expands the annual employment period to 48 weeks from 43 weeks, to allow for a "balanced" or year-round school calendar.

The Senate also expanded the factors to be considered when teachers and administrators are hired, from Tomblin's proposed eight to 11. Seniority remains on the list, joined by national certification. The Senate tweaked other proposed factors that include specialized training relevant to the job sought, past evaluations and "other measures or indicators."

Recommendations from principals and faculty senates would be separate criteria among those factors. County school boards could weigh the 11 factors as they choose — unless applicants for a classroom teaching post include already-employed educators. In such cases, the factors must be given equal weight except for the principal and faculty senate recommendations, which would receive double weight.

Monday's amendment further guarantees a classroom teaching job to the applicant who wins both those recommendations as well as the county superintendent's.

At nearly 190 pages, the bill also seeks to advance Tomblin's goals of ensuring that every 3rd-grader ends that year reading at grade level, and that high school students enter their senior year ready for college or career training. It offers loan forgiveness to teachers assigned to subjects or parts of the state facing critical shortages. It would pay the $1,150 renewal fee for teachers with vaunted national certification.

The Senate also kept Tomblin's proposed rewrite of the school accreditation process, and his call for public meetings before county boards draw up a new school calendar.

The Senate's passage of the bill followed talks with House lawmakers and groups representing teachers. Those organizations pushed for Monday's changes to Tomblin's proposed revamping of hiring and transfer policies.

The House was scheduled to meet later Monday to accept the Senate-passed version and assign it to committees for review. With the session ending April 13, administration officials are hoping for quick House action on the education proposal.

Tomblin drafted the bill following a wide-ranging audit that described a public schools system rigid with bureaucracy and laws, but with poor results for students. The governor also plans to issue executive orders and has enlisted the state Board of Education to pursue other measures as part of his quest to overhaul the system.

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