We’ll begin today’s lunchtime rundown with some big news from the governor’s office. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Tuesday morning called for a state government hiring freeze, effective immediately and lasting through the end of the current fiscal year (June 30). The Associated Press reports:
Tomblin cited state budget woes. Taxes that support the general revenue portion of state spending are nearly $35 million below estimates for the budget year. While that’s less than 1.5 percent of projected general revenue collections to date, officials fear the lagging performance will continue.
Tuesday’s order applies to jobs and vacancies funded by general revenue, and not to those that rely on such special revenues as license fees. Tomblin said he would allow exceptions on a case-by-case basis. The governor also ruled out layoffs or furloughs.
Dave has this blog post on the hiring freeze, but keep checking www.charlestondailymail.com for updates as the day goes on.
Yesterday, the State Senate unanimously approved the governor’s education bill. The votes come at a cost. Following weekend negotiations with state teachers unions, House and Senate leadership, the governor’s office and the state Board of Education, several significant changes were made to the bill before it came up for a vote Monday. Here’s an excerpt from my story in today’s newspaper.
State Senate President Jeffrey Kessler brings down gavel, closing the Monday session of the State Senate after the senators unanimously voted to pass an amended version of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s education bill. Photo by Bob Wojciesziak
The amendments completely removed Teach for America from the bill’s language, created additional hiring criteria for teachers, allow counties more flexibility in creating a school calendar and ensured elementary school teachers would get 40-minute planning periods.
“I think we worked very hard on this,” (Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne) said after the vote. “I’m pleased with what we passed.
“I think we kept it strong.”
Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam, said he believes this amended version of the bill “works.”
He said he appreciates an amendment giving counties 48 weeks to schedule their calendar, instead of the current 43 weeks, and praised an amendments meant to give local schools more control over who works there.
While it has long been expected the education bill would meet strong opposition in the House of Delegates — and particularly the teacher-dominated House Education Committee — it appears Monday’s compromise could have paved the way for an easy passage on that end of the hall. Dave talked to House leadership yesterday for his story in today’s paper.
The House officially received the bill Monday afternoon. After the brief session, Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, said he commends the work of everyone involved and approves of the bill as it is now.
“We all felt it was better to work the bill at every step of the way to see if we could reach a good bill with agreement and consensus, which is one of the things that I always try to do,” Thompson said, adding that he participated in some of the meetings discussing the bill.
Thompson said the House wanted to work the bill as fast as it could to get it to the governor’s office: the bill was only referred to the House Education Committee.
Committee chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour, said she had seen the latest version of the bill and was very familiar with the changes it contained.
“I think it’s a good compromise,” Poling said.
Poling plans to bring it before her committee at 2 p.m. Tuesday. She envisions a long discussion, possibly over the course of multiple sessions.
Be sure to follow Dave on Twitter for live updates from that 2 p.m. meeting today.
In other news, some education jobs at the Industrial Home for Youth in Salem are in limbo as officials try to figure out what to do with that facility. It was announced last week the juvenile correction facility would be transitioned to an adult prison, but officials said no jobs would be lost in the process.
Now, it appears that might not be true. The Department of Education employs 32 people at the facility to teach juvenile offenders. Those positions likely would not be needed when the facility is filled with adults.
(State Department of Education spokeswoman) Liza Cordeiro confirmed Monday the department has not ruled out eliminating positions.
Some of the educational staff worked with juvenile sex offenders housed in the Harriet B. Jones Treatment Center, (acting Division of Juvenile Services director Stephanie Boyd) said. Although officials would like to move the center, there’s no concrete plan in place yet. Boyd said the division is hopeful it can find a stand-alone location in Harrison County where it could move those offenders, easing the transition for the juveniles and staff alike.
Maintaining relationships would be ideal, Boyd said, adding that the education staff was doing great work with the juveniles at the facility. Whether a facility is available and contiguous move can happen remains to be seen.
The division is trying to find other locations in the state for the educators, Boyd said; she thought a facility in Fairmont might have some openings. Boyd and Rubenstein both said there could be the chance for additional training if those employees wanted to stay at the new Salem Correctional Center.
The division of corrections is still looking at what types of programs it will have at the facility, (Division of Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein) said. Many adult prisons lack basic academic skills — in areas like reading, math or spelling –Rubenstein said. Classes for the General Education Development (GED) certificate are also common, he said.
“I do know in talking with the adult side of the education department that they will be working with us to identify the number of instructors on educational as well as vocational and any type of staff like that that would be needed to offer the instruction to the 300 to 400 inmates that will be there,” Rubenstein said.
Of the 21 employees at the facility classified as teachers now, six are considered vocational instructors and one is an adult basic education teacher. Rubenstein said the division of corrections would be at Salem this week to research the best way to use the facility for adults.
Click here to read Dave’s full story about the changes.
That’s all for today’s lunchtime rundown.
Speaking of lunch, the House this morning introduced a resolution naming the pepperoni roll as West Virginia’s official state food. I’m sure the hot dog lobby will have something to say about that. Keep checking Capitol Notebook for updates on this controversial (and tasty) issue.