Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 18, 2013

W.Va. Senate passes amended education bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education proposal arrived at the House of Delegates on Monday after the Senate agreed to last-minute changes pushed by groups representing teachers and school workers.

As amended, the measure passed unanimously by the Senate scraps the governor's invitation of the nonprofit Teach for America program into state classrooms. Lawmakers would instead study ways to offer alternative paths for certifying teachers.

To ensure 180 days of student instruction, Tomblin had proposed freeing up 12 days in the school calendar now assigned for other uses. Mondays changes would set aside six of those days for outside-of-school activities, but would also permit the use of those days to make up for snow days. Weather routinely leaves county schools short of state law's 180-day mandate.

The Senate kept the governor's language ending teacher pay for snow days, and allows counties to add days from outside of the calendar to reach 180 days. For that goal, and to permit "balanced" or year-round school calendars, Monday's bill also expands the annual employment period to 48 weeks from 43 weeks.

The Senate also expanded the factors to be considered when teachers and administrators are hired, from Tomblin's proposed eight to 11. Seniority remains on the list, joined by national certification. The Senate tweaked other proposed factors that include specialized training relevant to the job sought, past evaluations and "other measures or indicators."

Recommendations from principals and faculty senates would be separate criteria among those factors. County school boards could weigh the 11 factors as they choose — unless applicants for a classroom teaching post include already-employed educators. In such cases, the factors must be given equal weight except for the principal and faculty senate recommendations, which would receive double weight.

Monday's amendment further guarantees a classroom teaching job to the applicant who wins both those recommendations as well as the county superintendent's.

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