The day before Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin‘s education bill could come up for final approval, House Republicans are proposing several amendments that could radically change the measure.
After repeatedly saying the bill did not go far enough for education reform, GOP leadership filed five amendments before Tuesday’s session (the time when rules call for such changes). Many of the changes stem from recommendations of the education efficiency audit, released this time last year.
Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, is calling for a provision that addresses “excess bureaucracy“ at the Department of Education. The audit said the department was bloated and top heavy, and the amendment aims to trim some of the alleged fat.
By July 1, 2016, the State Superintendent shall undertake reductions in the Department of Education so that it shall on and after that date, at no time, exceed an employee to student ratio of more than one employee for every two thousand enrolled students. This ratio requirement shall continue to be met for each succeeding fiscal year thereafter: Provided, this ratio requirement shall not apply to the hiring of classroom teachers.
Minority Whip Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, proposes the creation of a charter school system in the state. Charter schools are public schools that are eligible for private funding and typically are regulated by a a slightly different set of rules.
The purpose of this article is to authorize the establishment of public charter schools. The Legislature intends for the public charter schools to provide teachers with the flexibility to design their own education environment and to provide a mechanism for discovering successful education practices that can be replicated in all public schools.
Legislators, most notably Kanawha County Democrat Sen. Erik Wells, have proposed charters in the past. Teachers unions despise the measure, saying there’s no proof charters work in a rural environment.
Delegate Cindy Frich, R-Monongalia, proposes keeping the state superintendent’s salary in code at $175,000. Although this was part of the original bill, the figure was scrapped during Senate changes. State board President Wade Linger says the move, along with eliminating certain educational requirements, gives the board more flexibility in finding qualified superintendent candidates.
Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, proposes making student achievement the overriding factor in teacher evaluations. Right now it accounts for 15 percent of a teachers evaluation, in accordance with a pilot project that’s about to go statewide. The 50 percent measure is mentioned in the audit and has a little traction nationwide, but teachers unions blast the idea as unfair and unrealistic.
Lastly, Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha, proposes the creation of an electronic book pilot project. It calls for an elementary school, middle school and high school to have electronic equipment with which students could read all textbooks. The pilot would last four years, with regular reports on its status made to the Legislature.
Monday the Senate unanimously passed the governor’s education bill after a great deal of finagling. Teachers unions signed off on the measure, which sailed through the House Education Committee Tuesday with unanimous consent.