Register today to attend the RBL Conference – February 16-17, 2014 in Cheyenne at Little America Hotel & Resort.
Legislative Session Starts February 10th, 2014
On February 10th, the Wyoming Legislature will convene for the 2014 general session. During the 20-day session, the Legislature will work on the statewide budget, as well as many issues, including external cost adjustments. The Governor has submitted his budget to the Joint Appropriations Committee, and they will bring their recommendations to the Legislature.
WEA has been active in following the issues that affect our members. President Vetter and I have attended meetings of the Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability, Joint Education Committee, Joint Appropriations Committee, and others. We have worked with members of the Education Coalition to monitor these issues as well as to provide input.
The Legislative session is fast approaching, and the Wyoming Education Association has been hard at work on behalf of all our members.
WEA has been working on a pay increase for Community College employees. This work started with President Kathy Vetter, Executive Director Ron Sniffin, and Government Relations Director Ken Decaria meeting with Governor Matt Mead to ask that he include an increase in his budget. Subsequently, the Governor has included $3.65 million in his proposed budget for a 2% increase over the biennium for community college employees. The Joint Appropriations Committee is now working on a budget to take to the Legislature for the 2014 Budget Session. The Governor has also included funding for Community College employees to pay for increases to the contribution rate for the Wyoming Retirement System.
Obtaining a K-12 external cost adjustment (ECA) is high on the list of both the WEA’s and the Wyoming Education Coalition’s priorities for the legislative session. Often called a “cost-of-living” adjustment, the purpose of an ECA is to adjust the amount of funding provided to school districts through the Wyoming Block Grant School Funding Model for changes in the prices of goods and services purchased by Wyoming school districts. This adjustment is the means to correct the model for inflation. No ECA has been provided since the 2008-09 school year, despite the fact that inflation in Wyoming since that time has risen an average of 14%.
What has been the effect of the lack of an ECA for several years? While everyone was very appreciative of the one-time retention bonus provided to district employees by the Legislature, the reality is that in many school districts, salaries have been frozen for a significant period of time, and benefits costs have continued to rise. Worse yet, some districts have been forced to lay off or cut hours for personnel due to funding that has not kept up with inflation. Textbooks and curricula in some locales are not being updated, despite the necessity to implement revised Wyoming student content and performance standards. Similar stories have been shared regarding lack of sufficient funds to provide adequately for technology, science materials, professional development, non-core classes, and student activities. Teachers are buying supplies and books for student use out of their own pockets because of cuts to school budgets.
The Joint Education Committee and the Joint Appropriations Committee have both recommended support for an ECA, and the Governor’s budget message supports the JAC call for an increase to salaries.
We continue to monitor issues related to the Wyoming Retirement System (WRS). WEA has worked proactively as a member of the Coalition for a Healthy Retirement System to increase public awareness.
Please consider becoming a Legislative Contact Team (LCT) member. Local members involved on LCTs serve as a vital link to legislators by providing them information about issues important to our members. This contact should occur not only when the legislature is in session but on a year-round basis. We are lucky to live in a state where we have access to the individuals who represent us and the ability to make our positions known. Contact your local president if you are interested in serving.
Sign up for the “WEA Legislative Update.” Keep informed of what is happening during the legislative session. To sign up for the update, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for all you do for Wyoming education. If you have questions, please contact me at email@example.com.
Accountability Is Still the Word
School and educator accountability continues to occupy the time and minds of educators and legislators nationally. Wyoming is no exception.
WEA has high hopes that Wyoming will be choosing the high road by taking the time to be thoughtful and deliberate in the development and implementation of our accountability system. We appear to be learning from the mistakes of some other states that jumped into the fray before thoroughly examining the consequences, both intended and unintended, of the decisions and legislation around education accountability they have implemented.
The Advisory Committee to the Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability, which is comprised of representatives of all K-12 education stakeholders as well as of other entities such as the business community, has been working many hours to flesh out the rules and definitions pertaining to school accountability.
The State Board of Education, too, has devoted much time to the topic of accountability. An important recommendation coming from that body to the Legislature is not to pursue the concept of end-of-course assessments.
A Professional Judgment Panel (PJP), under the direction of a national consultant hired by the State Board of Ed., was created and convened to make specific recommendations as to the “cut scores” of the legislatively-specified definitions. Although far from decided at this point, the recommendations for Phase 1 from the PJP would potentially mean that, beginning in SY 2013-14, schools would be given overall school-level performance ratings based on the following indicators and targets:
– for Achievement, that schools must have 75% of their students at or above Proficient on PAWS or PAWS-ALT in order to be classified as Meeting the Target, and 87% at or above Proficient to be classified as Exceeds the Target;
– for Equity, that schools must have reduced their proportion of Below Basic students between 2011 and 2012 by 6% to Meet the Target, and by 20% to be classified as Exceeding the Target;
– for College- and Career-Readiness (or Readiness), that schools must graduate at least 85% of their high school students within four years OR must have at least 20% of their students achieve the ACT Composite Benchmark to Meet the Target, and must attain BOTH of these criteria to be classified as Exceeding the Target;
– for Growth, that schools must attain a median growth percentile of 50 to Meet the Target, and a median growth percentile of 60 to Exceed the Target.
The Advisory Committee has done a significant amount of work this year on Phase 2, individual educator accountability and evaluation system recommendations, as well as starting to draft a school leader evaluation system. Key information at this point is that teacher evaluation in the future is recommended to be based 80% on four domains of professional practice and 20% on student performance data.
During the week of December 10, the Select Committee on Accountability will meet to receive reports and updates from the Department of Education, the Educational Liaisons to the Legislative Service Office, the Advisory Committee, and others, as well as to begin working the draft legislation. The two bills currently on their agenda pertain to Phases 1 and 2 of accountability. The Joint Education Committee will also be meeting that week and will be receiving reports, but it appears that most of their meeting will be for consideration of three draft bills: school finance amendments, energy and natural resource education initiative, and high school equivalency certificates.
As always, WEA will be attending and monitoring these meetings in order to obtain the most current information for you, our members. If you have any questions about accountability, please contact our office.