Senate Bill No. 371
(By Senators Kessler (Mr. President) and Hall,
By Request of the Executive)
[Introduced January 20, 2012; referred to the Committee on Education.]
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated §18-5B-3a, relating to allowing flexibility within county school systems; authorizing the State Board of Education to select a county school system to serve as a county innovation zone pilot project; authorizing the State Board of Education to promulgate rules and emergency rules; providing the procedure and criteria for application and selection as a county innovation zone; requiring the development of county innovation zone plans and setting forth their contents; requiring a public meeting to obtain feedback; permitting exceptions from county and state board rules, policies and interpretations; permitting exceptions from statutes subject to legislative approval; requiring annual performance reviews and reports; and permitting the posting of certain teaching vacancies.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new section, designated §18-5B-3a, to read as follows:
ARTICLE 5B. SCHOOL INNOVATION ZONES ACT.
§18-5B-3a. County Innovation Zones Pilot Project; requirements to qualify; application for designation; required plans for county innovation zones; plan approval; waiver of statutes, policies, rules or interpretations; progress reviews and annual reports; teacher vacancies, job postings and approval.
(a) The state board is authorized to choose one county school system currently under a declared state of emergency by the state board due to nonapproval status to participate in a pilot program to test the effectiveness of allowing such county school systems to be considered county innovation zones. This section terminates on July 1, 2016, unless sooner terminated, continued or reestablished.
(b) The state board shall promulgate a rule, including an emergency rule if necessary, in accordance with article three-b, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code to implement this section. The rule shall include, but not be limited to, the following provisions:
(1) The manner, time and process for the submission of a county innovation zone application;
(2) The contents of the application, which must include a general description of the innovations the county school district seeks to institute;
(3) Factors to be considered by the state board when evaluating an application, which shall include, but are not limited to, the following factors:
(A) Support from teachers, staff, parents, students, the county board of education, the local school improvement council and school business partners; and
(B) The potential for an applicant to be successful in raising student achievement as a county innovation zone; and
(4) Standards for the state board to review applications for designation as county innovation zone and to make determinations on the designation of a county innovation zone pilot project.
(c) The state board shall review county innovation zone applications in accordance with the standards adopted by the board and shall determine whether to designate the applicant as a county innovation zone. The state board shall notify an applicant of the board’s determination within sixty days of receipt of the application.
(d) Prior to designation by the state board as a county innovation zone, county school systems submitting applications shall develop county innovation zone plans containing the following information:
(1) A description of the programs, policies or initiatives the county school system intends to implement as an innovative strategy to improve student achievement if the plan is approved by the state board;
(2) A description of the programs, policies and interpretations, and all statutes, if any, identified as prohibiting or constraining the implementation of the plan, including an explanation of the specific exceptions to the rules, policies and interpretations, and statutes required for plan implementation. A county school system may not request an exception nor may an exception be granted from any of the following:
(A) An assessment program administered by the West Virginia Department of Education;
(B) Any provision of law or policy required by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Public Law No. 107-110 or other federal law; and
(C) Section seven, article two and sections seven-a, seven-b, eight and eight-b, article four, chapter eighteen-a of this code, except as provided in subdivision (l) of this subsection; and
(3) Any other information the state board requires.
(e) The county innovation zone plan may include proposals:
(1) Allowing principals to have increased decision-making powers over the budgeting for and spending on programs and services for students;
(2) Allowing principals to have increased decision-making powers over teacher recruitment;
(3) Allowing principals increased policy-making powers;
(4) Allowing principals the discretion in procuring supplies and advisory services from within or without the school district;
(5) Allowing principals to reduce certain requirements to allow staff to meet the school’s mission;
(6) Allowing flexibility to the school calendar to achieve the instructional day goal provided by section forty-five, article five of this chapter;
(7) Allowing flexibility to the alternative teacher certification provided in section one-a, article three, chapter eighteen-a of the code; and
(8) Utilizing virtual school courses aligned with the Southern Regional Education Board’s Standards for Quality Online Courses.
(f) Prior to submitting a county innovation zone plan to the state board, the applying county school system must hold a public meeting in the county seat of the county school system for purposes of presenting the plan to, and obtaining feedback from teachers, staff, parents, students, the county board of education, the local school improvement council and school business partners. The applying county school system shall include a detailed, inclusive report of the feedback obtained at the public meeting as an appendix to its plan.
(g) Approval of a county innovation zone plan pursuant to this section is at the sole discretion of the state board. Any approval requirement not contained within this section do not apply.
(h) Except as provided in subsection (j) of this section, the state board shall approve or disapprove the plan within sixty days of receipt, subject to the following:
(1) No exceptions to county or state board rules, policies or interpretations are granted unless both the state board and the state superintendent approve the plan at least conditionally pursuant to subsections (i) and (j) of this section;
(2) If the plan is disapproved, the state board, the state superintendent or both, as applicable, shall communicate the reasons for the disapproval to the county school system and shall make recommendations for approving the plan. The county school system may amend the plan for resubmission.
(i) Upon approval of the county innovation zone plan by the state board, all exceptions to county and state board rules, policies and interpretations listed in the plan are granted.
(j) If a county innovation zone plan, or a part thereof, may not be implemented unless an exception to a statute is granted by an Act of the Legislature, the state board may approve the plan, or the part thereof, only upon the condition that the Legislature acts to grant the exception. If the state board approves a plan on that condition, the state board shall submit the plan with the request for an exception to a statute, along with supporting reasons, to the Legislative Oversight Commission of Education Accountability. The commission shall review the plan and exemption request and make a recommendation to the Legislature regarding the exemption requested.
(k) The state board or its designated committee shall perform annual performance reviews and provide annual reports in accordance with section seven of this article.
(l) A county school system whose plan has been approved may make a job posting for a teacher vacancy in accordance with the procedures and approval provided by section eight of this article.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to provide for innovation zones for county school systems who are under a state of emergency. The bill authorizes the State Board of Education to select a county school system to serve as a county innovation zone pilot project. The bill authorizes the State Board of Education to promulgate rules and emergency rules. The bill provides procedure and criteria for application and selection as a county innovation zone. The bill requires the development of county innovation zone plans and sets forth their contents. The bill requires a public meeting to obtain feedback. The bill permits exceptions from county and state board rules, policies and interpretations. The bill permits exceptions from statutes subject to legislative approval. The bill also requires annual performance reviews and reports and permits the posting of certain teaching vacancies.
§18-5B-3a is new; therefore underscoring and strike-throughs have been omitted.