Senate Bill No. 371
(By Senators Kessler (Mr. President) and Hall,
By Request of the Executive)
[Originating in the Committee on Education;
reported February 17, 2012.]
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; giving McDowell County first opportunity to submit application; 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 meeting to develop plan; requiring meeting to educate employees about the plan; requiring vote to determine level of school employee support; 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; allowing revision and resubmission of approved plan; requiring annual performance reviews and reports; permitting the posting of certain teaching vacancies; and including, for an innovation zone and to the extent applicable, any land and infrastructure needs in the land use master plan and authorizing Tug River Health Association, Inc. to work with county board in addressing health, wellness and fitness needs.
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 zone 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 Legislature finds that:
(1) Choosing one county school system under a declared state of emergency due to nonapproval status to designate as an innovation zone as a temporary pilot would allow the testing of innovations that could be replicated in other school systems facing similar circumstances across the state, nation and world;
(2) Many counties under a declared state of emergency face problems outside of their education systems that have an indirect but large impact on student achievement. These problems can include poverty; drug and alcohol abuse; inadequate housing; inadequate transportation systems; health-, wellness- and fitness- related issues; and others;
(3) Numerous studies have shown an association between a young person’s health status and his or her ability to succeed in educational settings;
(4) McDowell County is unique and should be given the first opportunity to use innovative solutions to improve its education system when the totality of the following circumstances are considered:
(A) McDowell County has been under a declared state of emergency by the state board due to nonapproval status longer than any other county;
(B) McDowell County has ranked last in education in West Virginia for most of the past decade;
(C) The population of McDowell County has fallen from around one hundred twenty thousand in 1965 to twenty-two thousand today;
(D) McDowell County is the eighth poorest county in the United States;
(E) McDowell County leads the nation in overdose deaths from narcotic pain medications;
(F) Seventy-two percent of students in McDowell County live in a household without gainful employment;
(G) At least forty-six percent of McDowell County students do not live with their biological parents;
(H) McDowell County ranks second-worst in the state in infant mortality, child deaths and teenage birth rate;
(I) McDowell County consistently performs poorly in measures of health and well being when compared to other counties in the State and Nation;
(J) Multiple interventions and projects have been implemented in the past without significant impacts on health markers; and
(K) McDowell County has a chronic shortage of good roads, public transportation, housing, Internet bandwidth, recreation centers and health clinics.
(b) 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. Due to the reasons set forth in subsection (a) of this section, the McDowell County Board of Education shall be provided the first opportunity to submit a county innovation zone application under this article. If the McDowell County Board of Education has not submitted an application by April 1, 2013, the state board may accept applications from other county boards. This section terminates on July 1, 2016, unless sooner terminated, continued or reestablished.
(c) 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 a county innovation zone and to make determinations on the designation of a county innovation zone pilot project.
(d) 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 thirty days of receipt of the application.
(e) 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 subsection (n) of this section; and
(3) Any other information the state board requires.
(f) The county innovation zone plan may include, but is not limited to, the following proposals:
(1) Allowing increased collaborative site-based decision-making powers over the budgeting for and spending on programs and services for students;
(2) Allowing increased collaborative site-based decision-making powers over teacher recruitment;
(3) Allowing a collaborative process which ensures accountability and transparency to all stakeholders;
(4) Allowing a collaborative process which provides input and demonstrative buy-in from education personnel regarding appropriate professional development, supports, resources and working conditions.
(5) Allowing a collaborative site-based process to reduce certain requirements to allow staff to meet the school’s mission;
(6) Allowing, through a collaborative site-based process, flexibility to the school calendar to achieve the instructional day goal provided by section forty-five, article five of this chapter;
(7) Allowing, through a collaborative site-based process, flexibility to the alternative teacher certification provided in section one-a, article three, chapter eighteen-a of this code; and
(8) Utilizing virtual school courses aligned with the Southern Regional Education Board’s Standards for Quality Online Courses.
(g) Prior to submitting a county innovation zone plan to the state board:
(1) The county superintendent shall hold a meeting for the purpose of developing the innovation zone plan. The meeting shall include the principals employed within the county, employee organization representatives, parents and other stakeholders;
(2) The county superintendent shall hold a meeting of all regularly employed school employees for the purpose of educating those employees about the plan;
(3) The county superintendent shall conduct a vote to determine the level of school employee support for the innovation zone plan. The county superintendent shall require all building level administrators to distribute ballots to all regularly employed school employees employed in their building. The building level administrators shall ensure that all the employees are allowed at least three days to return their ballot. The innovation zone plan may not be submitted to the state board for approval and the state board may not approve the innovation zone plan unless two thirds of the school employees voting vote to approve the innovation zone plan; and
(4) Prior to submitting a county innovation zone plan to the state board, the applying county school system shall 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, the local school improvement council, school business partners and other interested parties. 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.
(h) 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 does not apply.
(I) Except as provided in subsection (k) of this section, the state board shall approve or disapprove the plan within thirty days of receipt, subject to the following:
(1) No exceptions to county or state board rules, policies or interpretations are granted unless the state board approves the plan at least conditionally pursuant to subsections (j) and (k) of this section; and
(2) If the plan is disapproved, the state board 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.
(j) 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.
(k) 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 on Education Accountability. The commission shall review the plan and exemption request and make a recommendation to the Legislature regarding the exemption requested.
(l) A county board designated as an innovation zone pursuant to this section that has an approved innovation zone plan may revise its plan and resubmit its plan to the state board for approval after conducting the vote pursuant to subdivision (3), subsection (g) of this section and complying with all other applicable plan requirements set forth in this section except for holding the public meeting required by subdivision (4), subsection (g) of this section.
(m) The state board or its designated committee shall perform annual performance reviews and provide annual reports in accordance with section seven of this article.
(n) 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.
(o) For any county that is designated as an innovation zone under the provisions of this section and to the extent the following provisions are applicable:
(1) The county commission of the designated county shall collaborate with the Office of Coalfield Community Development in including any land and infrastructure needs in the land use master plan provided for in section nine, article two-a, chapter five-b of this code. These needs may include, but are not limited to, advancement of public education, economic development, highway development, recreational amenities and housing development; and
(2) Tug River Health Association, Inc. is authorized to work with the county board to address the health, wellness and fitness needs of students, parents, school personnel and all others in the county. Tug River Health Association may partner with the Robert C. Byrd Center for Rural Health and the Marshall University Medical School in addressing these needs. In addressing the health, wellness and fitness needs, the following should be considered:
(A) New evaluations of school-aged children are needed to reassess their health status and direct further interventions;
(B) Prior to developing new assessment tools and initiating programs, a comprehensive inventory of prior assessment tools and programs is needed to determine their strengths and weaknesses. This can direct further studies and interventions;
(C) New assessment tools should include objective markers of disease as well as subjective opinions of individual health status and barriers to health;
(D) Objective and subjective data should be linked at individual and disease-specific levels;
(E) Disease-specific data may be used to address common barriers to health as perceived by a specific population and tailor interventions to these specific populations;
(F) The effectiveness of interventions should be assessed using the same health status markers used to develop the intervention;
(G) Interventions should use available technology that allows individuals to track measures of health and provide assistance in making informed decisions about their health;
(H) Assessments and interventions should be developed and implemented using community-based participatory research models; and
(I) Assessments and interventions should be multidisciplinary, collaborative efforts with existing organizations and programs.