Tomblin clarifies position on paid holidays for teachers
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says he has never intended to eliminate paid holidays for teachers.
But tweaks could be made to the governor's education reform bill to "make it perfectly clear" teachers will be paid for seven holidays each year, said spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin.
Tomblin visited Friday with members of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and other education stakeholders to discuss his bill. He told them he appreciates their support and help in spreading the word about the legislation.
That help could be crucial to correct "misunderstandings" with the bill, Tomblin told the group.
"There was a lot of propaganda that went out earlier in the week, that is simply not true. We need to dispel those rumors that are out there," Tomblin said.
Tomblin appears to be referencing materials distributed by the West Virginia wing of the American Federation of Teachers. Earlier in the week the AFT sent a 13-point paper slamming the bill to each of its roughly 16,000 members, AFT president-elect Christine Campbell told the Daily Mail.
"The central service office's phones lit up Tuesday and Wednesday. Most of the calls were from school teachers: why is the governor trying to take our paid holidays away?" Tomblin said.
"You know, we had to say, that's not the case, here's where you can get the bill and look at it. It's those kind of, maybe scare tactics, and maybe it's just one of those things that they didn't read the bill right. But like I said, we need to put the facts out there with what we're trying to do," he continued.
A Friday story in the Daily Mail also mistakenly said the holidays would not be paid days for teachers.
The section of West Virginia law that deals with teacher employment, Chapter 18A, states when a holiday "falls within the employment term, it shall be considered as a day of the employment term and the full-time school personnel shall receive his or her pay for same."
That portion is stricken from the law in the governor's bill, raising the hackles of the AFT and the West Virginia Education Association. However, Mason said the terminology was moved to the portion of code that deals with the school calendar.
The governor wants to give more flexibility to local school systems in determining what schedule is the best fit for a particular community. If a school system decides to move to a year-round, or balanced, calendar, that could mean there is no school on a holiday that typically falls on a regular class day in a traditional calendar.
The governor's bill moves holidays under code section 18-5-45. While it lists the phrase "seven holidays," it does not specifically state those days are paid holidays.
Some bills need clarification, Goodwin said. The governor is working with Senate Education Committee Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, to work on "direct language" to make it "crystal clear" teachers will be paid for seven holidays.
Within days of the AFT issuing its letter, the governor's office distributed a 10-page point-by-point response. One specifically mentions the paid holiday dispute.
"Senate Bill 359 does not take away any of the seven holidays currently granted to teachers," the letter states. "If a county board of education designs a calendar that does not include seven of the current holidays, teachers will still receive seven holidays within their employment term."
Both documents also address code changes proposed concerning faculty senates. The AFT alleges the bill "cuts the 10 faculty senate days currently in law down to one," referencing the start of the school year.
The governor's office says the bill "still allows for faculty senates to meet for an unlimited block of time during non-instructional days."
The portion of state law currently in effect sets aside a two-hour block for professional activities for teachers. That is stricken in the governor's bill.
The bill says faculty senates can meet for any amount of time on any non-instructional day.
Senators debated the bill for the first time Thursday in a meeting of the education committee. The committee meets again at 2 and 5 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the bill, with meetings at 2 and 5 p.m. Thursday as well.
Plymale said he would call for a vote on the measure at some point Thursday.