By RYAN QUINN
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia House of Delegates voted 76-24 Tuesday to pass on to the Senate a bill that eliminates the eight Regional Education Services Agencies, the state Office of Education Performance Audits and the mandate that public school year calendars have at least 180 separate instructional days.
RESAs are multi-county agencies that are supposed to aid public schools.
House Bill 2711 is an amended version of Gov. Jim Justice’s K-12 education bill that he filed about a month ago. The amended version differs from the governor’s introduced version in various ways.
It doesn’t include the $808 statewide teacher pay raise he originally proposed.
It maintains the requirement that the state School Building Authority consider “economies of scale” among the “objective criteria” for choosing which school construction and renovation projects to fund.
The House version also nixes the language in Justice’s version that says no single performance measure can compromise “a school or school system’s accreditation.”
The Legislature and the board have butted heads over which of them has authority over which facets of education. In recent years, the power struggle has centered on the board’s adoption of Common Core standards and the standardized tests aligned to them.
The House version also includes language that would seem to push the board to adopt the ACT — or perhaps the SAT, although that test is taken less frequently by West Virginia students — as the standardized test for 11th grade. The bill says the “board shall adopt a standard, curriculum-based achievement college entrance examination for grade eleven. The college entrance examination must include separate tests in English, reading, writing, mathematics and science.”
The House also added to Justice’s bill language requiring that the board provide “online assessment preparation” for students who must take online tests.
Before the bill got to the House floor, the GOP-controlled House Finance Committee moved the teacher pay raise to another bill. House Finance also removed — and didn’t move elsewhere — the school service personnel raise that the House Education Committee had added to Justice’s version. School service personnel include bus drivers, cooks and custodians.
Delegates put off action Tuesday on House Bill 2817, the bill the teacher pay raise was moved to. The House Rules Committee put it on the inactive calendar.
Today is “crossover day,” the deadline for when bills generally are supposed to be passed out of their houses of origin to survive this year’s legislative session.
House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, said HB 2817 “reamortizes” the Teachers Retirement System unfunded liability, saving the state $70 million annually in debt payments over a 30-year period but increasing the total payment period by an additional eight years.
Justice spokesman Grant Herring said that, according to Jeffrey Fleck, executive director of the state’s Consolidated Public Retirement Board, the bill would cost taxpayers an extra $1.55 billion to fully pay down the debt.
“That is going to be the one funding mechanism for the teachers’ pay raise,” Nelson said of HB 2817. “Without that, I would not see any possibility of being able to fund the teacher pay raise in our budget right now.”
When asked after Tuesday morning’s House floor session why action on that bill had been delayed, he said, “I think it’s looking at some of the other items or bills that are on the agenda and just prioritizing.
“It’s just dropped to the bottom, and whether we bring that up or whether it dies is yet to be determined.”
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