Sen. Mike Maroney: SB 451 Would Have Benefited Counties

Senate Bill 451, aka Comprehensive Education Reform Bill and aka the Omnibus Education Bill, was defeated by a procedural motion in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Let me explain why I supported that bill and why the defeat of the bill was so bad for my district, Senatorial District 2.

Without getting too deep into the weeds, the bill had two mechanisms that would bring significant state dollars to counties, especially rural counties that are struggling. These mechanisms include funding all counties for a minimum of 1,400 students (half of my counties are under 1,400) and fixing levy rates based on 2015-2016 numbers.

The following dollar amounts (estimates within 3-5 percent) that I will provide account for real dollars that the counties would have received every year moving forward. The nine counties in my district lost nearly $30 million dollars annually:

Marshall — $1.7 million.

Wetzel — $75,000.

Tyler — $4.4 million.

Doddridge — $ 4.2 million.

Ritchie — $3.5 million.

Calhoun — $5.1 million.

Gilmer — $7.0 million.

Monongalia — $1.8 million.

Marion — 0.

Marion and Wetzel would have gained the least. and this is due to the fact that they have not had much past levy success and both have more than 1,400 students.

What else did the counties lose?

1. Much-needed school support personnel for every school and the freedom to pick the discipline (nurse, psychologist, counselor, etc). This would have been $24 million-dollar investment across the state.

2. School safety fund dollars appropriated by the legislature and evenly distributed to the counties. Counties would have had the freedom to use the money as they thought best for their county (metal detectors, school police officers, etc).

3. Ability to offer differential pay in a school in a county is under-performing. The goal was to give a tool to the schools that need help and hopefully assist them in recruiting good teachers and improving the school and thus improving the children’s education at under-performing schools.

4. An extra $2,000 per year for math teachers. The goal was to keep the math teachers we have and help recruit more.

5. $5 million for innovation zones.

6. More leeway for counties to suspend/fire employees for findings of abuse.

7. Ability for county school boards to vote to raise the regular levy (more money for education), but this had to be approved by the voters.

What did teachers lose in addition to all the above in the counties’ list (as that list was positive for teachers too)?

1. A 5 percent pay raise for teachers (this includes school service personnel and state police). It could still come in a separate bill.

2. A $250 dollar tax credit.

3. One extra personal day and a $500 bonus if a teacher is absent four days or less in a year. This is needed, as the average absentee rate for teachers is 14.7 days. In other words, of 200 days (180 instructional and 20 others), the average teacher is absent 14.7 days or 7.4 percent. That number is ridiculous and needs to be addressed.

4. Teacher input in student advancement. This is important because teachers are often blamed if a student has to take a remedial course but yet they did not necessarily approve the student advancing to the next level.

What was considered “bad” by the teachers unions?

1. The bill said if there is a strike, teachers and school service personnel are not paid during the strike and no extracurricular activities can occur. The days will be made up and therefore the pay will be made up.

2. Paycheck protection and non-severability clause were both removed and not present in the final bill that was killed.

3. Seven charter schools could be formed over four years and one must be for special needs students. The chances of any charter school forming in Senate District 2 is close to zero. If one did form, it likely would have been needed and would have been a positive, in my opinion. It would have offered kids a choice and would survive only if it was filling a void for children.

4. 1,000 education savings accounts to help “special needs students and students affected by bullying.” I have no idea how anybody could call this a negative.

5. Open enrollment. The ability for a student to chose a different county if having problems in their current county. A tool to try and help kids who might need a change of venue, for whatever reason.

6. Teacher RIF (reduction in force) decisions based on qualifications first and seniority second. The unions and teachers hate this, as they prefer that only seniority matters. In my opinion, this is ridiculous. In the year 2019, one should be allowed to employ the best teacher, period. I have had discussions with teachers about this and they told me, “The administrators making the decisions would not pick the best teacher but would pick friends and relatives.” I contend, that if that is true, I am not surprised West Virginia ranks where it does.

The children (and their parents) of Senate District 2, the district I represent, lost in a big way with the death of SB451.

The counties of Senate District 2 lost in a big way with the death of SB451.

The teachers of Senate District 2 lost in a big way with the death of SB451.

What is likely to happen over the next few weeks? More than likely, the raise will go through and all of the other good is gone, gone, gone.

I do support a raise to bring salaries to a more competitive level for all state employees. But if carefully scrutinized, those state employees who work for the state road, Child Protective Services, school service personnel, state agencies, etc. are in more need.

The state police are definitely in the underpaid category and I would support an even bigger raise for them. I support a raise for teachers too, but would prefer at minimum, a small component of education reform to be attached to it.

Those are the facts and my decision to vote YES for SB451 was very easy.

The misinformation that was propagated by the unions was such a disservice to children, parents, county boards and teachers in my district.

Everybody but the union leaders loses.

To quote the Wall Street Journal editorial board: “Teachers walked off the job to kill educational choice and accountability. Competition and judging teachers by student performance are mortal threats to the unions’ K-12 monopoly. The children are the real losers.” (referring to the defeat of the bill).

Maroney, R-Second District, is a physician who resides in Glen Dale. He is chairman of the state Senate Health and Human Resources Committee and a member of several other committees.

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