UPDATE: Second public hearing about W.Va. education bill held

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ/WV MetroNews) -- UPDATE 2/11/19 @ 7:30 p.m.
A second hearing got underway Monday evening to address West Virginia's omnibus education bill.

Nearly 80 people were signed up to talk, and each person was being allotted about 85 seconds each.

"This evening session is a blessing," Del. Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, said. "Just the notion of everyone having their voice heard, we're excited about it."

Last week, lawmakers decided to add the second hearing, in addition to one at 8 a.m. Monday to allow more teachers, parents, students and service personnel to come speak.

Many parents spoke in favor of the bill. Lauren Mundy said she wants to be able to choose the right school for her child.

"We as parents can, and know how to teach our children. Is charter and private schooling for everyone? No, public school isn't for everyone either," Mundy said.

Those against the bill spoke out against charter schools and educational savings accounts. Many voiced concerns that it would take away from funding public education. Educators also came to defend the public school system.

"Our public schools aren't failing," Cabell County teacher Danielle Parent said. "Our students' needs aren't being met, so we're unable to educate them. They're hungry, they're homeless, they have mental health issues that we as a school are required to address presently, but I'm a teacher. I'm not specifically qualified to do that."

Mundy said, for that reason, money should go to school counselors instead of charter schools or educational savings accounts.

In addition to the speakers, several people came to watch from the galleries.

Participants had the chance to submit a written testimony to go on the record.

Last week, the Education Committee removed educational savings accounts from the bill and decreased the number of charter schools, but on Monday the Finance Committee reversed both of those decisions.

People we spoke with prior to the second hearing said they were happy to finally get to share their opinions, but they believe they should’ve had this chance when the bill started in the Senate.

"To me, the bad stuff outweighs the good things," Kanawha County teacher Jay O'Neal said. "I'd be happy if the bill was dead."

The Finance Committee was expected to meet again Monday night to discuss and possibly change the bill even more.

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



UPDATE 2/11/19 @ 10:58 a.m.
A surge of speakers addressed West Virginia’s omnibus education bill during the first of two public hearings in the House of Delegates.

With each speaker given 70 seconds, the two-hour event was a bit like speed dating with superintendents, teachers and parents speaking for and against the bill. Another public hearing was set for 5:30 p.m. Monday.

“I’m thankful for being here this morning, realizing how fast 70 seconds goes,” said Fred Albert, president of American Federations of Teachers-West Virginia.

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.

Most speakers said they were against the bill — particularly charter schools and educational savings accounts that have been recommended for change by the House Education Committee.

“Just because you call it sweeping reform does not make it sweeping reform,” said Karen Nance, a former Cabell County school board member.

But some parents said they are in favor of those school choice provisions and urged their inclusion.

“Parents and students are desperate for change. They are desperate for options and choices,” said speaker Kathie Crouse. “This is your time to make history.”

The bill passed last Monday out of the Senate, where Senate President Mitch Carmichael lauded it as comprehensive education reform.

“Shame on you Mr. Mitch for floating this trial balloon of deception,” said Natalie Laliberty, an elementary school principal in Kanawha County.

The House Education Committee’s version is scaled way back from what the Senate first passed on Monday.

“Please, please, keep it intact,” West Virginia state school board President Dave Perry said of the House Education version.

A non-severability clause was removed right away. That would have meant the whole bill, including the teacher pay raise would have been struck down if any element were successfully challenged in court.

A ‘paycheck protection’ provision was removed right away too. That would have mandated annual approval for teachers union members to have their dues withheld from paychecks. Unions viewed it as an anti-organized labor provision.

The Senate’s version allowed charter schools. That’s still in the bill, but barely. House Education at first capped the charters at six. Now there’s a pilot program for two.

Delegates on House Education voted to remove a provision establishing educational savings accounts entirely. Those would have provided money for private educational expenses for students leaving public school.

The House Education committee also voted to remove an entire section that detailing the consequences of a work stoppage. Originally, the bill would have withheld pay if a work stoppage closed schools. Extracurricular activities would have been canceled.

The committee altered a section that would have removed seniority as the main factor in job retention. Now seniority is linked to evaluations in those instances.

An amendment passed by the committee would provide money for innovation zones, which are already in West Virginia law but without funding.

Now it goes to the House Finance Committee, which could change it again.

House Finance Chairman Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, presided over Monday’s public hearing. He noted that people who didn’t quite finish speaking could provide their written comments to him.

Parent David Howell told lawmakers West Virginia’s school system needs to provide more choices.

“You made promises that you would do educational reform in this state,” he said. “I would implore you to pass this bill as handed to you by the Senate.”

Tim Woodward, superintendent of Hancock County schools, said West Virginia needs broader societal changes to help support the school systems.

“We’ve got to come in and comprehensively change our communities. Our communities are hurting,” he said. “Until we face the fact that schools are symptom, not the problem, we’re going to go around and around.”

Debra Sullivan, former principal of Charleston Catholic and now state school board member, argued against including the charter schools and educational savings accounts components.

“Proposals to divert public funding to support private education are wrong,” Sullivan said. “Charter schools are private schools in disguise.”

Mickey Blackwell, president of West Virginia’s elementary/middle school principals association, said the entire bill should be scrapped.

“I cannot change your mind in 70 seconds, but I will tell you this bill is specious and won’t do what it sets out to do,” he said. “Kill this bill. Work on the governor’s proposal.”

UPDATE 2/11/19 @ 10:15 a.m.
The first public hearing Monday at the West Virginia State Capitol on the omnibus education bill is over. A second hearing is scheduled for Monday evening.

Delegates will get another chance to hear from members of the public, especially teachers, at 5:30 p.m. in House chambers. The public is invited.

The meeting is meant to address a broad bill that would make a variety of changes to West Virginia’s school system. It would bundle long-promised pay raises with charter schools, education savings accounts, a change to authority over local school levies, banking of unused personal days and more.

Local teacher unions across the state voted to authorize “work actions” if they feel necessary. The votes were tallied at a meeting in Fairmont Saturday.

UPDATE 2/11/19 @ 8:05 a.m.
Dozens of teachers and service personnel are at the West Virginia State Capitol to speak out about the omnibus education bill that has sparked controversy across the state.

The House is having public hearings Monday at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. for delegates to hear straight from teachers. The public was also invited.

60 people have signed up to speak. Each of them will get 70 seconds to speak. The house has allotted two hours for Monday morning's hearing.

The meeting is meant to address a broad bill that would make a variety of changes to West Virginia’s school system. It would bundle long-promised pay raises with charter schools, education savings accounts, a change to authority over local school levies, banking of unused personal days and more.

Local teacher unions across the state voted to authorize “work actions” if they feel necessary. The votes were tallied at a meeting in Fairmont Saturday.

We have a crew at the public hearing.

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



People who want to speak up about a big education bill now have two opportunities.

After a brief debate on the House floor, delegates voted unanimously to add a 5:30 p.m. Monday hearing to the one that had already been scheduled for 8 a.m.

“We’ll be able to accommodate a variety of people,” said House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor.

Delegate Amanda Estep-Burton, D-Kanawha, also spoke in favor of the change.

“I’m going to encourage that we pass this amendment so that the true stakeholders in public education, our students, will have an opportunity to attend,” she said.

The meeting is meant to address a 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, education savings accounts, a change to authority over local school levies, banking of unused personal days and more.

When the bill flowed out of the Senate, teachers said they hadn’t gotten a fair chance to weigh in.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw requested the public hearing for Monday. But when the 8 a.m. time was announced, many teachers said their jobs would interference with attendance.

Delegate Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, made a motion that at first just switched from the 8 a.m. time to a proposed 5:30 time.

“At 8 a.m. they will simply be at work or in school,” Hornbuckle said. “This will give them the opportunity to have time to make public comment.”

The Republican majority countered that some people had already planned on the 8 a.m. time. They said people from the Eastern Panhandle, who have to take hours of travel into account, should be considered.

“People are aware of that and are already starting to make arrangements,” Summers said at first. “I feel that time should be honored.”

President Pro-Tem Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, chimed in: “If we change the time, we lose the advance notice we were trying to give.”

Delegate Jason Barrett, D-Berkeley, argued that teachers should be given every opportunity to speak.

“We’re going to have a public hearing on Senate Bill 451, the omnibus education bill, at a time when teachers can’t show up,” he said.

“We have heard from teachers across the state who feel disrespected who feel they weren’t included on the drafting of Senate Bill 451, and now we’re going to have a public hearing at a time they can’t be here.”

Local teachers unions have been having votes this week on authorizing “work actions.” A meeting has been scheduled for Saturday in Flatwoods to tally the results.

All this comes a year after thousands of teachers flooded the Capitol for nine days for better wages and stable insurance.

“A year ago our teachers felt so disrespected that they listened in those galleries, they chanted in the hallways and they rallied on the steps,” Barrett said. “And if we’re not careful, Mr. Speaker, they’re going to be back.”

Delegate David Kelly, R-Doddridge, moved to keep the 8 a.m. meeting and add the 5:30 one.

HIs amendment passed 96-0 with four absences.

Then the amended motion to have an 8 a.m. public hearing and then another also passed 96-0.

Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said he’d been researching whether legislative rules would allow for two public hearings on the same topic. He felt confident that the two public hearings would be allowed.

“I think it gets us out of a pickle,” he said.

Speaker Hanshaw appeared on MetroNews’ “Talkline” earlier on Friday to discuss the public hearing.




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