Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today issued the following statement, praising the West Virginia Senate for supporting and passing Senate Bill 359, which outlines the comprehensive plan to raise student achievement and improve the state's education system. The bill will now move to the West Virginia House of Delegates for consideration.
"I commend the members of the West Virginia Senate for supporting Senate Bill 359. I believe our children deserve the best education possible and I am confident this landmark legislation will truly make a difference in classrooms across the state. When I proposed my comprehensive plan for education reform, I laid out five key goals to raise student achievement and improve our education system. I'm pleased all of my goals remain intact and I look forward to working with members of the House and stakeholders in the coming days. I believe, together, we can improve student achievement in West Virginia."
Gov. Tomblin worked with the Senate, the House and stakeholder groups to reach an agreement on Senate Bill 359, while maintaining core principals. The following are the changes to the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 359:
A minimum of 40 minutes will be provided for elementary school planning periods, up from the current minimum of 30 minutes.
The State Board will conduct an examination of all current and potential forms of alternative certification, with a particular focus on programming "that would enhance the ability to place effective teachers in areas of high need." Therefore, the National Teacher Corps provisions were removed from Senate Bill 359.
Current law provides a 43 week limit on the school calendar. The new limit will be 48 weeks, leaving a four consecutive week period in local school calendars to provide time for school maintenance without students and teachers in the building.
As is consistent with current law, six outside the school environment days will be required as part of the 20 non-instructional calendar days, with those days available to be converted to instructional days to make up for school cancellations.
Senate Bill 359 made several changes designed to limit additional postings and "bumpings" that occur. One of those measures, limiting bumping for reductions in force to within a school, was removed after additional consideration and the identification of potential unintended consequences that could be harmful to the system.
Hiring will be changed in a manner that will empower teachers and provides flexibility to get the highest qualified teacher in the classroom every single time.
The new criteria will be weighted, with provisions that allow for the double weighting of recommendations from each of the faculty senate and the principal. Other new criteria will include academic achievement, national board certification, and an "other relevant factors" category. Current criteria were also changed, permitting flexibility for evaluations, for specialized training, and for the amount of course work and degree level attained by a candidate.
New provisions will require that a county board hire a teacher if the faculty senate, the principal, and the superintendent agree as to the highest qualified candidate.
All other provisions of the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 359 remain intact.