UPDATE (1:57 p.m.): The West Virginia Senate passed an amended version of the education reform bill 34-0.
Weekend negotiations with state teachers unions have led to changes in Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s education reform bill, which will now come before the State Senate at a 1:30 floor session.
Senate President Jeff Kessler said those changes affect four main areas. First, the bill now includes two additional criteria for teacher hiring, a recommendation from the principal and a recommendation from the faculty senate. Those criteria will be double-weighted against the eight other hiring criteria already in place.
The amended bill will retain seniority as one of the hiring criteria, but counties will no longer be able to determine how much weight seniority gets, as would have happened under the governor’s original bill.
The bill would set up a 48-week school calendar, which provides counties flexibility to institute a year-round (or “balanced”) schedule. Four contiguous weeks of the year would be set aside for school maintenance. It also would change the rules for “out of school experience” days, dictating counties can only use two of those days before the 130th day of school.
The biggest concession in the newly amended bill has to do with Teach for America, a national nonprofit that recruits college graduates to teach in high-need areas. Teachers unions strongly opposed the group coming into the state, saying the state already has alternative licensing procedures on the books to allow college graduates without education degrees to teach in state schools.
Lawmakers tried to appease unions by removing “Teach for America” from the bill, replacing that specific language with “national teacher corps.” Now, all mention of Teach for America and national teacher corps has been removed from the bill.
Last, lawmakers have changed part of the bill limiting elementary school teachers’ planning periods to 30 minutes. The bill has been amended to make those planning periods 40 minutes long.
The Senate will reconvene soon, and leaders from both parties expect members will pass the bill…although some “aye” and “nay” votes are expected on both sides. The House will reconvene its floor session at 3 p.m., and is expected to receive the education bill from the Senate. That would allow that body’s education committee to take up the bill as early as Tuesday.
Tags: education reform