UPDATE | W.Va. omnibus education bill officially dead

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP/WSAZ/WV MetroNews) -- UPDATE 2/20/19 @ 8:35 p.m.
Senate Bill 451, the controversial legislation that became better known as the omnibus education bill, is officially dead.

That announcement was made Wednesday night in the last hours that lawmakers had to consider the bill.

The legislation went back and forth across the aisle as the Senate and House attempted to find common ground, resulting in several amendments.

It prompted a two-day teacher strike, mainly over the issues of charter schools and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs).

Educators called an end to the strike Wednesday night after the omnibus bill died and lawmakers began considering the standalone pay raise bill proposed by Gov. Jim Justice.



UPDATE 2/19/19 @ 6:02 p.m.
Loud cheers raining down from the gallery just after noon was the enduring image and noise as hundreds of teachers and more than 50 lawmakers broke out into cheers and applause after a motion to kill the education reform bill prevailed.

It was a big victory for teachers as Republican House leadership was unable to keep all members in line and the bill was postponed indefinitely.

The vote was 53-45, pleasing Democratic leadership and hundreds of teachers in attendance, in a chamber with a 59-41 Republican advantage.

The motion came from Minority Whip Mike Caputo (D).

"You got a bad bill, you better kill it," he told the delegates.

His motion was followed by plenty of colorful imagery from fellow Democrats and a plea from Republicans to talk and work out a compromise.

"Slaughter the pig, put the pig to death," said Del. Isaac Sponaugle (D).

"It we overreact at this time, we're going to lose good parts of this education bill," said Del. Daryl Cowles, Speaker Pro Tempore (R).

"In the words of my Congress lady (Republican U.S. Rep. Carol Miller), we need to cut the bull and build a wall to keep Senate Bill 451 out of our state," said Del. Sean Hornbuckle, Assistant Minority Whip (D).

The vote overcoming the advantage held by Republicans surprised everyone on both sides of the aisle and both chambers.

“Yeah, you’re always surprised when you do a procedural motion like that,” Del. Caputo said.

“Yeah, I’m surprised,” said Del. Danny Hamrick, House Education Committee Chair (R).

“I was very surprised,” said Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R), who said on a scale of 1 to 10, the vote was a 10.

Caputo said the presence of the teachers changed things.

"Absolutely. There's no question."

Charter schools and education savings accounts seemed to be the twin pieces proving unacceptable to teachers and Democratic leadership, though Republicans sad to see other aspects die along with them, instead of still on the table if the bill had moved to a conference committee to iron out differences between House and Senate versions.

"We took the five pages of this bill's history and shredded it and threw it away,” said Hamrick. “It's a little frustrating, I understand."

"I don't think we should be taking any money every child and put it into private hands," Caputo said.

"I think it was abundantly clear to the people of West Virginia that our education system is frankly in desperate need of reform,” Carmichael said. “We're finishing near last in student achievement and yet today, I'll say the defenders of the status quo have won a victory today. It's unfortunate for the people of West Virginia, but we'll still continue to be optimistic."

But the battle is not over yet.

One of those 53 yes votes can change their mind and ask for another vote Tuesday evening or Wednesday. Otherwise pieces from this bill can be added into other bills.

"We'll continue to reform. We'll continue to try. We'll never stop," Carmichael said.

"Anything's possible,” Caputo said. “Until the bell rings on the 60th day, anything is possible around here."

The Kanawha County Teachers Union is worried about the possibility of the bill to resurrect and have asked teachers to return to the capital for the evening session.

As of Tuesday evening, it’s still up in the air if schools will be back in session Wednesday.



UPDATE 2/19/19 @ 2:37 p.m.
West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) released the following statement after the House voted to indefinitely table Senate Bill 451:

“Today’s action by the House of Delegates on comprehensive education reform is a delay, not a defeat. There is a vital need to reform West Virginia’s education system, and I do not believe that any true transformation comes through pay raise alone. Our families deserve competition, choice, and flexibility. The 18 members of the Senate who relentlessly pursued giving families that option will not stop working toward that goal. Thousands of families across the state had their fundamental right to educational freedom usurped by the will of those who cling so desperately to the status quo and the empty promises by those who pressure them to defend it. I am disappointed, but let me be clear: I am not defeated. In the Senate, “tired of being 50th” isn’t just a clever slogan. It’s a call for action, and we will act.”

UPDATE 2/19/19 @ 12:40 p.m.
Cheers echoed through the West Virginia House of Delegates Tuesday after lawmakers voted to table action on a controversial education bill.

With a vote of 53-45, delegates adopted a motion to indefinitely postpone Senate Bill 451. The House then recessed until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Educators went on strike in 54 of West Virginia's 55 counties Tuesday.

A bill that would make a variety of changes to the state's education system. A chart that shows all of the changes made to the legislation so far is at the bottom of this article.

According to the Legislature's calendar, the last day to introduce new bills in the House was Feb. 12 and the last day to introduce bills in the Senate was Feb. 18.

UPDATE 2/19/19 @ 12:22 p.m.
Right outside of the West Virginia House of Delegates, educators are screaming, "Kill that bill!" They are protesting at the Capitol where lawmakers are debating a controversial education bill.

Just before noon Tuesday, the House voted to reject a motion to postpone the vote on Senate Bill 451 until 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Now, state lawmakers are debating a motion filed by Democrats to kill the bill indefinitely.

The bill would make a variety of changes to the state's education system. A chart that shows all of the changes made to the legislation so far is at the bottom of this article.

Educators are on strike in 54 of West Virginia's 55 counties Tuesday.

We have team coverage across the state. Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 2/18/19 @ 8:30 p.m.
West Virginia teachers' unions have called a statewide strike over an education bill that they view as retaliation for a nine-day walkout last year.

On Monday night, the Senate passed the education reform bill by a 18-16 vote. It followed a day of heated discussions on the Senate floor, with some senators saying they were being rushed to vote on legislation that had been heavily amended by the House.

The bill still contains the pay raise and a tax credit for school supplies, but it drops an incentive amount for teachers with good attendance to just $500.

It allows seven charter schools, at two schools per year now.

The Senate also added Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) back in the bill. The House's version of the bill would have required a law enforcement officer at each school, while the new version just creates a fund for school safety and security.

Now that the Senate has voted to amend the bill and pass it on to the House, the House can either accept or reject the changes.

If the changes are rejected, the House and Senate will create a committee to focus on some sort of compromise.

Meanwhile, earlier Monday evening, leaders of three unions for teachers and school service workers said that a strike would start Tuesday.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee says that watching the actions of the state Senate, "it appears that they are more interested in listening to the outside interests than they are the educators across West Virginia."

Teachers won a 5 percent pay raise after last year's strike, which is included in the controversial bill. However, teachers said the strike is no longer about pay raises or PEIA funding. "We are in a state that is hurting with poverty, with opioid crisis. These kids are hurting and they need more than what somebody with a standardized test can give them," Cabell County teacher Adam Culver said.

The Senate version of the complex bill would allow for up to seven charter schools statewide and provide for up to 1,000 education savings accounts for parents to pay for private school.

The House passed its version of the bill last week. Educators said the House's version was better, but not perfect.

There is no word on how long the strike will last. State Superintendent Dr. Steven Paine issued a statement Monday. He said he regrets it had to come to a work stoppage.

"While SB 451 has followed an unusual path, the legislative process is not complete, and I am hopeful that we can collectively work toward a solution that best benefits our students and respects our teachers, service personnel, parents and citizens of West Virginia," Paine said in a news release.



UPDATE 2/18/19 @ 6:15 p.m.
Teachers in West Virginia will strike beginning Tuesday, the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association (WVSSPA) announced Monday evening.

Members gathered outside Senate chambers as senators were prepared to resume discussion of the omnibus education bill.

Throughout the day Monday, the Senate has been examining the House's version of the bill -- facing the prospect of adopting or amending it. Discussion was often divisive and heated.

Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 2/18/19 @ 4:15 p.m.
The West Virginia State Senate has voted Monday to amend the House of Delegates’ version of the omnibus education bill.

They faced the prospect of adopting the House’s bill or amending it. They voted to amend the bill as a whole, and now they are discussing the changes that would be made in their new version.

Our crew at the scene reports the discussion has been heated at times. The Senate can’t offer multiple amendments. Their new version is considered a sweeping amendment, so there’s a take it or leave it approach.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael told fellow senators that if they don’t like parts of the new version to vote against it since they can’t offer changes at this point.

Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) are added back in and can only be used by special needs students and students who are bullied.

There was also an addition to the number of charter schools.

Senators voiced their concerns, saying this bill was just made available to them 10 minutes before and had no time to read or understand the new massive legislation.

Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, spoke up, saying there’s no way anybody has had enough time to really look at the bill.

"With all due respect, this is like legislation by ambush,” Woelfel said. “I don't know how the people of our state are going to benefit from this type of approach to a comprehensive reform bill. I just don't think that promotes the best interest of our youth."

Senators were also asking Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, how much this new version of the bill would cost and she didn’t have a number. She said it would probably be the same cost as the Senate’s original bill.

To see a comparison chart of the legislation, click on the related documents.

The Senate went into recess and is expected to resume discussion at 6 p.m.



UPDATE 2/16/19 @ 7:40 a.m.
The education omnibus bill will be reported to the state Senate on Monday, four days after its passage in the House of Delegates.

The House passed the sweeping legislation Thursday while making changes; the non-severability clause, “paycheck protection” provision and the portion establishing educational savings accounts were removed, and more limitations were added regarding establishing charter schools. The chamber approved funding for placing police officers in every school in the state.

The Senate could accept the legislation or make further changes, leading to a conference committee.

The final day of the legislative session is March 9.



UPDATE 2/14/19 @ 10:55 p.m.
The West Virginia House of Delegates on Thursday passed the omnibus education bill on its third reading. Seventy-one lawmakers voted yes and 29 voted no.

House Communications Director Jared Hunt released an infographic that compares the House version of the bill that was adopted Wednesday to the version that passed in the Senate.

West Virginia State Senate President Sen. Mitch Carmichael told WSAZ they want to work with their colleagues in the House of Delegates and create a strong bill. However, he is already considering changes to their version of the bill, like increasing the number of charter schools. The House of Delegates had just two charter schools in their version of the bill.

"To limit to two, in a unique area, only if it's approved by so many entities, we see that as a limiting factor," Carmichael said. "We want more options, more choices for our parents, students and teachers."

American Federation of Teachers West Virginia President Fred Albert said charter schools are not likely under the House's version of the bill because they require a vote of over 50 percent from parents and school staff.

The House of Delegates also voted to remove educational savings accounts (ESAs) from the bill. ESAs would provide money to students whose parents' decided to pull them from public schools. The money was limited to about $3,000 and reserved for children with special needs in the Senate's version of the bill.

"We had it very much limited to less than 1 percent of the student population in our state as it left the Senate. We may put some more restrictions in it, but we also think providing options for specials needs students, for instance, is certainly worthy of our examination," Carmichael said.

However, Albert said that money would take away funding from public schools. "We want our public schools to be the best that they can be in this nation. We want our public schools fully funded," he said.

Albert said the House's version of the bill gained a lot of support from educators and delegates, so he urges senators to pay attention to that. "We just need to be careful. We don't want to experiment with our kids," Albert said.

He said the option of a strike is always on the table as lawmakers move forward.

"When our teachers and our service personnel feel like they have just been pushed to the limits, then of course that is an option," Albert said.

Sen. Carmichael said senators were evaluating the bill Thursday night and he expects in depth discussion on Monday.



UPDATE 2/14/19 @ 1:06 p.m.
The West Virginia House of Delegates just passed the omnibus education bill on its third reading.

Seventy-one lawmakers voted yes and 29 voted no.

House Communications Director Jared Hunt released an infographic that compares the House version of the bill that was adopted Wednesday to the version that passed in the Senate.

Known as Senate Bill 451 in its infancy, the omnibus bill would make a variety of changes to West Virginia’s school system.

UPDATE 2/14/19 @ 12:42 p.m.
Lawmakers are in chambers for a third reading of a controversial education bill in the West Virginia House of Delegates Thursday.

House Communications Director Jared Hunt released an infographic that compares the House version of the bill that was adopted Wednesday to the version that passed in the Senate.

Known as Senate Bill 451 in its infancy, the omnibus bill would make a variety of changes to West Virginia’s school system.

The House voted Wednesday evening to include amendments related to mus teachers, including the Underwood Smith program. This version also includes an amendment allowing for the dismissal/firing of employees who are found to have committed abuse.

You can watch the legislative session live here.

UPDATE 2/13/19 @ 7:02 p.m.
Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates met for discussion Wednesday for a second reading of the House Finance Amendment, the most recent version of the education bill.

Known as Senate Bill 451 in its infancy, the omnibus bill would make a variety of changes to West Virginia’s school system. The legislation is broad and received backlash from educators. Teachers across the state voted to take action if they are not happy with the legislative process.

Delegates have to go over more than 30 proposed amendments. That means legislators could be in chambers all evening.

Through Wednesday afternoon, they were not even halfway through.

An amendment was proposed to change the incentive amount for teachers and service personnel for not missing days. Using four days or fewer in the Strike and Insert version of the bill gave a $500 incentive.

The proposed amendment on the floor Wednesday wanted to up that incentive to $1,000. Some Delegates did not like the proposal, saying there is no need to pay someone extra for doing their job.

Del. Doug Skaff, (D), representing the 35th district, disagreed, saying this ultimately benefits the students.

“If you are for keeping those teachers in the classroom to create a better out product of our students, you vote for this amendment. If you don’t think giving our teachers another 500 dollars on a job well done to help create a better out product, a better student, a better future leader of this state, vote no! Vote no," he said.

The amendment was voted on and adopted 65-33. The incentive was raised to $1,000.

After that, lawmakers started on an amendment that revolved around school safety and having officers inside of the schools. Delegates said students have come to them with concerns over school shootings, so they wanted to add this to the bill.

The debate lasted for more than an hour, and the majority of people liked the idea of adding a school resource officer.

Del. John Mandt, who represents the 16th district, spoke up in his support to this amendment. “Let’s put it out there and show people what we can do to take care of our children, to take care of our teachers," Mandt said.

Del. Amanda Estep-Burton, who represents the 36th district, also supported the amendment. “We staff state troopers every day to protect us at the Capitol. I passed four in the hallway just a little bit ago. Our children’s lives don’t have a price tag,” she said.

The amendment that revolved around school safety and having officers inside of the schools was passed 82-17.

As of 7 p.m., the delegates were still meeting and going over amendments, and say they will likely be there until late in the night.

If they make it through all amendments, the third reading would be scheduled for Thursday.



UPDATE 2/13/19 @ 12:02 p.m.
Lawmakers say the discussion over a controversial education bill could last well into the evening.

A second reading of the House Finance Amendment, the most recent version of the education bill, will happen in the West Virginia House of Delegates Wednesday.

Known as Senate Bill 451 in its infancy, the omnibus bill would make a variety of changes to West Virginia’s school system. The legislation is broad and received backlash from educators. Teachers across the state voted to take action if they are not happy with the legislative process.

Majority Leader Amy Summers said the House plans to get through other legislation first on Wednesday, saving the omnibus bill for the end.

Delegates have to go over more than 30 proposed amendments. That means legislators could be in chambers all evening, Summers said. House Communications Director Jared Hunt says there is no current plan to take a break for lunch before delegates debate SB 451.

This version of the bill passed its first reading in the House Finance Committee Tuesday by a vote of 17-8.



UPDATE 2/12/19 @ 11:11 a.m.
Members of the House Finance Committee rallied this morning and voted for a House Education version of a broad-ranging schools bill.

That means the full House of Delegates could get the bill as soon as today, with amendments being offered on the floor as soon as Wednesday. That timeline is not a certainty, our media partner WV MetroNews reports.

The House Finance Committee voted 17-8 in favor of the bill today. There are 15 Republicans on the committee’s majority. Two Democrats — Mick Bates and Jason Barrett, the committee’s two minority chairmen — voted with them.

The vote happened about 7:45 a.m. today in a fresh meeting. That followed a full Monday of activity that ended at midnight.

During the midnight meeting, the committee voted down a House Finance version, 13-12. Republicans Bill Anderson, Erikka Storch and Steve Westfall voted with the Democrats.

“I was a little disappointed that we did not get our House Finance strike-and-insert out,” said House Finance Chairman Eric Householder, R-Berkeley.

The 125-page bill that would make a variety of changes to West Virginia’s school system. It would bundle long-promised pay raises with charter schools, a change to authority over local school levies, banking of unused personal days and more.

There were a couple of key differences between the versions.

The House Education Committee version had whittled the number of charter schools down to two in a pilot program. The House Finance Committee had that number at five, with the possibility of a sixth.

The House Education version had removed education savings accounts, money set aside for educational use when students move from public school to private education. The House Finance version revived that provision.

Householder said he preferred the version his own committee produced. He suggested Republicans will offer amendments on the House floor to restore more charters and education savings accounts.

“Obviously, I’m in it to win,” he said this morning. “I wanted to make sure our House Finance Committee presented its best work.”

Republicans on the committee caucused privately prior to the midnight vote. Coming out of that meeting, Householder thought he had the votes to pass the House Finance version.

“It was close. We had the votes to pass it,” he said.

But back in open committee, members discussed whether voting down the House Finance version would lead to consideration of the House Education version.

Householder concluded that conversation led to Republicans losing a vote.

“We all know what happened,” he said today. “It was defeated, which left us with the House Education strike-and-insert.”

This morning, Householder asked Republicans to caucus again in his office prior to the 7 a.m. Finance meeting.

“I decided the best course of action was to get a bill moving, and that position right now was just the House Education strike-and-insert,” he said. “Keep in mind, the fight is not over. We will still be able to amend this bill on second reading.”

He suggested Republicans will offer amendments aiming to increase the number of charter schools and to include education savings accounts.

His own preference goes beyond that. Householder said he prefers unlimited charter schools and unlimited education savings accounts.

“My gut feeling tells me there will be members who will make amendments to that,” he said.

The committee’s vice chairman, Vernon Criss, said he’s fine with the bill.

“I think so,” said Criss, R-Wood. “We’ve tried to add some innovations in there to allow more flexibility for the school room teachers and to try to help parents with their decisions on what they want to do about their children’s educations.

“Those types of things, overall, I think it will help. And obviously trying to help with the governor’s pay raise. So it’s all in there and we’ll see what we can do.”

One of the Democrats on Finance Committee, John Williams, said the bill has not changed enough for him to vote for it. He voted against it in committee.

“As long as there’s charter schools in there, it’s not something that I can support,” said Williams, D-Monongalia.

“It’s got good things like the teachers pay raise, but as long as the charter schools are in there, I can’t support it.”

He said that’s the case, even with the number of charter schools capped at two in a pilot program.

“I just still am afraid of the road that would take us down. It starts at two and then who knows where we are in a few years.”

While Republicans may offer floor amendments to increase the number of charter schools, Democrats may offer amendments to remove the possibility.

“I don’t know of any official plans, but that wouldn’t surprise me one bit, no,” Williams said.

UPDATE 2/9/19 @ 4:15 p.m.
On Friday the following amendments were made to Senate Bill 451, better known as the Omnibus Education Bill in West Virginia:

• Striking education savings accounts (ESAs) out of the bill.
• Now requiring the majority of the school and community to support a public school transforming to a charter school.
• Striking a reference to Cabell and Kanawha counties for the pilot charter schools.
• Charter schools, when created, have to accept all students in their zone.
• Reinstatement of funds to innovation zones.
• Changing seniority language relating to RIF and transfers.
• Restricting elected officials from profiting or receiving money from charter schools, excluding an elected official who works at the school prior to conversion.
• Removal of all work stoppage language from the bill.

House committee members rejected these amendments:
• Changing the tax credit from $250 to $500
• Raising the incentive for teachers with good attendance from $500 to $2,000.

The bill now travels to the House Finance Committee for approval beginning Monday.

UPDATE 2/8/19 @ 10 p.m.
Senate Bill 451, better known at the omnibus education bill, is on its way to the House Finance Committee after being amended and voted on by the House Education Committee on Friday.

Discussion was tense, but moved quicker than expected on Friday.

The following amendments were made:

  • Striking education savings accounts (ESAs) out of the bill.
  • Now requiring the majority of the school and community to support a public school transforming to a charter school.
  • Striking a reference to Cabell and Kanawha counties for the pilot charter schools.
  • Charter schools, when created, have to accept all students in their zone.
  • Reinstatement of funds to innovation zones.
  • Changing seniority language relating to RIF and transfers.
  • Restricting elected officials from profiting or receiving money from charter schools, excluding an elected official who works at the school prior to conversion.
  • Removal of all work stoppage language from the bill.

House committee members rejected these amendments:

  • Changing the tax credit from $250 to $500
  • Raising the incentive for teachers with good attendance from $500 to $2,000.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said while they are glad ESAs were eliminated, there are still some concerns with the bill. "We're just not happy with charter schools, but it is much, much better than the bill that came over from the Senate," Lee said.

Some delegates were also not convinced moving the bill forward was a good idea.

"Yes, it goes to finance. Yes, it goes to the floor, but it also goes back to the Senate," Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson said. "That is where I am worried all of the bad stuff we take out will come back. In fact, I'm terrified of it."

However, the two attempts to kill the bill Friday night were rejected, and the majority of delegates on the Education Committee are sending the bill forward with high hopes.

"I believe our version is more middle of the road," Del. Joshua Higginbotham, R-Putnam said. "It's something that independents, Democrats, Republicans alike will be willing to support."



UPDATE 2/8/19 @ 7:42 p.m.
Senate Bill 451, better known at the omnibus education bill, is undergoing a House committee's scrutiny -- with some key changes introduced Friday.

After several hours of debate Friday afternoon members the House Education and Finance Committee voted to send their amended version to the House Finance Committee.

The following amendments were made:

  • Striking education savings accounts (ESAs) out of the bill.
  • Now requiring the majority of the school and community to support a public school transforming to a charter school.
  • Striking a reference to Cabell and Kanawha counties for the pilot charter schools.
  • Charter schools, when created, have to accept all students in their zone.

House committee members rejected these amendments:

  • Changing the section of the bill that would withhold the pay of educators during a walkout.
  • Changing the tax credit from $250 to $500

Discussion has been tense at times, but the process has been moving along quickly. We spoke with one lawmaker who said they're trying to keep educators' best interest at heart.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result," said Del. Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell. "Well, the insanity is to keep ignoring the teachers, principals, students and stakeholders.”

We have a crew at the Capitol. Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 2/8/19 @ 12:35 a.m.
Senate Bill 451, also known as the omnibus education bill, is making its way to the West Virginia House of Delegates.

On Thursday, the House Education Committee met to ask questions and discuss the bill before making amendments. Asking questions provided the delegates with clarification on the bill that is more than 100 pages long and has more than 60 components.

A large portion of the time was spent questioning educational savings accounts. The accounts would be for children with special needs. A parent would need to pull their child out of public school and meet all of the qualifications to be eligible for the over $3,000, which would be used for teaching tools.

Delegate Amanda Estep-Burton expressed concerns that parents would pull their children out of school for the wrong reasons."We are in the middle of a really bad drug epidemic and I feel like this will fuel some parents to pull their kids out of public school, which is often the first line of defense for students. The teachers are the first people that recognize that they're in bad situations," Estep-Burton said.

Greg Phillips, a teacher from Robert C. Byrd High School in Clarksburg, also spoke at the meeting and provided insight on possible tax credits and the need for more school counselors.

"We had a kid that watched his father commit suicide. And he was at school one day out. That absolutely requires something beyond what I know how to give a child in my classroom. I'm concerned about their reading skills, but when they come to me with something like that I need a little help," Phillips said.

Counsel also introduced the committee substitute version of the bill. This includes their changes to the bill that passed the Senate.

The committee substitute is 125 pages, compared to the previous version that is 135 pages.

The only major changes involved charter schools. The Senate's version of the bill included six charter schools. The committee substitute includes two elementary schools, one in Cabell County and one Kanawha County, as pilot programs for charter schools. Those schools would have to accept any students in their zone who want to attend the school.

Another notable change would allow levy elections to only happen when a levy increase is proposed, not annually like the Senate bill required.

Each change has to be accepted or rejected by the committee to actually amend the bill. The committee will meet again on Friday to vote on those changes, as well as other amendments.

Once the bill is amended and passed out of the education committee, it will go to the finance committee to start the whole process again. Then, the bill will head to the House floor.

If any changes are made to the Senate's version of the bill, it will have to go back to the Senate for more discussion and votes.



UPDATE 2/4/19
The search for consensus on a big education bill is starting in West Virginia’s House of Delegates.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw pledged to consider the bill in both the House Education and Finance committees. He indicated it would also be considered as a single bill, but acknowledged it’s likely to change through the legislative process.

“It’s not to be taken lightly. It’s not to be rushed. If there’s ever an area to be deliberate and thoughtful, it’s this,” Hanshaw said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

House Education may begin to consider the bill in short order.

“I think when you see the agenda posted for tomorrow you’ll find that bill on there,” said Delegate Mark Dean, the vice chairman of the House Education Committee.

House Education Chairman Danny Hamrick said what’s introduced there won’t be the exact same bill that passed the Senate on Monday.

“We’ll have a strike-and-insert out there as soon as we can for everybody to review before the committee.”

Hamrick added, “There will be some changes when the bill is introduced to committee, just based on the thoughts and feelings of members of the House.”

Debate broke out in the House of Delegates almost the very second it was introduced today.

The House received an official message from the state Senate that the bill had passed. At that moment, Delegate Isaac Sponaugle jumped up and made a motion to table the bill.

“At the end of the day, this bill is a pig,” said Sponaugle, D-Pendleton. “I don’t care how much lipstick you put on it, you won’t make it any prettier.”

Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, countered with a motion to table Sponaugle’s motion. She said the bill needs to be considered in committee. Her motion passed, 52-44 with four delegates absent.

The discussion didn’t end there, though. At the end of today’s floor session, delegate after delegate rose to speak for or against the bill.

Delegate Dean, who is also principal of Gilbert PreK-8, acknowledged that finding consensus will be challenging.

He said delegates like increased access to mental health services, pay raises for educators and a funding base of 1,400 students for all counties.

There’s disagreement, he said, on charter schools, educational savings accounts and removing seniority as the top factor in job retention.

“Probably right now there’s more areas we agree on than disagree on,” said Dean, R-Mingo. “But those areas we disagree are pretty big areas.”

There’s a lot more to chew on.

The bill would also let teachers bank personal days for retirement credit. It would give counties greater latitude in paying some teachers more for in-demand expertise. It would open enrollment for students to cross county lines.

The bill would require teachers to sign off annually on union dues. It stipulates that if there’s a work stoppage that closes schools, those involved would not be paid.

It’s all tied together with a non-severability clause, saying that if any part of the bill is struck down then it would all be void.

Hamrick, the Education Committee chairman, made a floor speech asking delegates and the public to be patient as the bill is considered.

“Today I just ask you to trust me and the other members of the Legislature, to keep the good parts of this bill and maybe remove the parts that give some of us heartburn,” said Hamrick, R-Harrison.

Hamrick said the bill under consideration in the Education Committee will be different from what passed the Senate. “There will be some changes when the bill is introduced to committee, just based on the thoughts and feelings of members of the House.”

But Hamrick did not elaborate much on how extensive those changes might be.

He said some of the language on charter schools and educational savings accounts may be strengthened to assuage concerns. “I don’t really have any misconceptions that’s going to change a lot of minds, but if the bill’s better and stronger that can only help,” he said.

Delegate after delegate weighed in on the bill during speeches on the House floor today.

Delegate Marshall Wilson, R-Berkeley, said he has gotten hundreds of emails from educators asking him to vote no. But Wilson said he has gone beyond that to seek out parents.

“As the educators have no faith in this body, the parents in this state have no faith in the public education system in this state,” Wilson said.

Delegate Tom Bibby, R-Berkeley, said declining enrollment in the school system is a sign: “Parents are speaking, and they’re speaking with their feet.”

“We need to make a change,” Bibby said. “We can’t just put our heads in the sand, give a pay raise and then go home and think everything’s going to be hunky dory.”

Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, was critical of how the bill had passed through the Senate.

“I have never been more happy in not being a state senator than I have in this last week,” he said.

The bill was first discussed in Senate Education on Jan. 24, then passed out of that committee after five hours of discussion the next day.

It was referenced to the Senate Finance Committee, where two Republican members indicated they would vote against it.

Instead, the Senate took the bill to a rare Committee of the Whole, which was the full Senate acting as a committee. After days of debate, the bill wound up passing out of the Senate, 18-16.

“I hope and pray the House of Delegates has much more wisdom and much more compassion than the Senate,” Caputo said.

“I hope and pray they look at the House and say ‘I’m thankful you took the time to do things the way they’re supposed to be done.'”

Speaking with reporters prior to the floor session, House Minority Leader Tim Miley said the bill should be divided into different policy areas.

“I don’t particularly care for the fact that you have so much in one bill,” Miley said. “If they were as important as everyone claims each of the parts to be, they should be addressed separately and passed on the merits of each idea in the bill.”



UPDATE 2/4/19 @ 10 p.m.
With the massive education omnibus bill successfully passing through the West Virginia State Senate, 18-16 (click here to see that story), the House of Delegates is preparing to take over the bill from here.

Educators have spoken out in opposition to the bill, and Kanawha County Education Association Co-President Dinah Adkins said they are watching lawmakers closely.

"Of course it's disappointing that the Senate voted to pass the omnibus bill, but we were expecting that. Nothing surprises us," Adkins said.

Teachers unions across the state are in the process of authorizing a work stoppage vote as the bill moves forward.

Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso said those against the bill went into each day knowing the outcome, but debated heavily to shine light on what they believe are the bill fallacies.

However, the senators responsible for the bill's movement said it is a needed education reform.

"At our high school 38 percent, only 38 percent, are proficient at math. Sixty-two percent are not proficient in math. We have one elementary school where 25 percent of students are hitting the proficiency in language arts," Sen. Ryan Weld, who represents the 1st District, said.

Many delegates said the bill will not pass the House easily. They have the option to make changes or split up parts of the bill to stand on their own.

Del. Sean Hornbuckle, who represents the 16th district, is a Democrat and also serving as the minority chair of the House Education Committee. He said as this bill stands in it's entirety, there is no way it would pass through the House.

"All of these should stand alone on their own merit and be voted and debated upon as such. I am all for everybody trying to enhance education, but I think these issues are different, and again they need to be voted upon as that," Hornbuckle said.

Del. Mark Dean, who represents the 21st district, is a Republican serving as the vice chair of the education committee. He agrees with Delegate Hornbuckle that there are good and bad parts of the bill, and he would like to see things broken up into smaller bills. Dean is urging everyone not to panic just yet because he knows this bill will face harsher eyes in the House.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, released the following statement:

"As we have said repeatedly, improving the compensation and benefits of our state's teachers, service personnel and public employees so that they are competitive with neighboring states and the private sector is and continues to be an absolute top priority for House leadership this session," Speaker Hanshaw said. "The House remains completely committed to addressing pay and benefits for all state workers and school employees.

"With the final passage of the comprehensive education bill by the Senate, House leadership now has a starting point for our work on this bill," Speaker Hanshaw said. "As I said before, we will fully review this bill in a deliberate manner, and will work to build consensus on the best path forward with proposals to improve our state's education system.

"It's important to remember: We are not satisfied with the status quo. Despite the amount of taxpayer money we spend on education, our current system remains ranked near the bottom compared to other states," Speaker Hanshaw said. "We believe this can be changed by inspiring innovation in our education system, increasing local control over schools, providing teachers more resources to use in their classrooms, giving teachers more time to teach instead of complying with testing or administrative requirements, improving technology in our classrooms, providing parents with more choices in their child's education, and changing the one-size-fits-all approach to education that is too often mandated from Charleston."

If the House of Delegates makes any changes, the bill will be sent back to the Senate for more debate before heading to Gov. Jim Justice's desk. The governor said he would veto the bill if it came across his desk.



ORIGINAL STORY 2/4/19
With the massive education omnibus bill successfully passing through the West Virginia State Senate, 18-16 (click here to see that story), the House of Delegates is preparing to take over the bill from here.

Del. Sean Hornbuckle, representing the 16th district, is a Democrat and also serving as the minority chair of the House Education Committee. He says as this bill stands in it's entirety, there is no way it would pass through the House.

"All of these should stand alone on their own merit and be voted and debated upon as such. I am all for everybody trying to enhance education, but I think these issues are different and again they need to be voted upon as that," said Del. Hornbuckle.

The education omnibus bill is more than 130 pages long, and covers more than 60 components ranging from teacher pay raises, to education savings accounts, to the addition of charter schools. There are things Hornbuckle likes about the bill, but says there are too many things lumped into one big bill.

For him, the biggest thing is making sure that his voters are involved in the crafting of the bill in the House because he has received numerous calls and emails in opposition to the bill.

"Everybody is just saying, 'Wait, this is not what we asked for. Why are we tying our pay raises to other things that we have never even talked about.' No one talked to the very people that are in the trenches every day with our children," he said.

Del. Mark Dean, representing the 21st district, is a Republican serving as the vice chair of the education committee. He agrees with Delegate Hornbuckle that there are good and bad parts of the bill, and he would like to see things broken up into smaller bills. Dean is urging everyone not to panic just yet because he knows this bill will face harsher eyes in the House.

"I don't think it is going to pass easily anywhere. There is going to be a lot of debate and a lot of discussion, and the bill is still a long way from being finished. We will have chances to offer amendments on the bill in the committee and on the floor," Dean said.

Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw will ultimately decide where the bill is placed first, but it is likely to start in the education committee and eventually go to the financial committee. Delegate Dean says if they get the bill first in education, they will get to work right away.

"I will be shocked if anything is put before this, this is probably the biggest piece of legislation we are going to be dealing with this session and definitely the largest piece we have in front of us right now," Dean said.

He also says in the education committee, they will spend several days reviewing, debating, and offering amendments before they send it to another committee or pass it to the floor.




 
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