UPDATE: Senate Republicans debut education bill ahead of debate

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West Virginia Senate Republicans have pitched a broad-based education plan that allows for charter schools but doesn't include vouchers.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael released a lengthy draft of the proposal late Friday and says it's a compromise that folds in many ideas backed by Democrats.

The legislation includes a pay raise for teachers, mental health services for students and a provision that would withhold pay for teachers if a school is closed because of a strike.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice issued a statement praising the bill as a bipartisan effort to better the state's education system.

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Roman Prezioso also released a statement saying they want to fully review the bill but that they are glad to have some common ground to move forward on.

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UPDATE: 05/16/19 7 P.M.

When the West Virginia Legislature reconvenes for a special session on Monday, education is not expected to be an immediate topic even though several bills are expected to be formally introduced in the Senate.

Eight bills were posted online, including ones aimed at expanding vocational programs to middle schools, raising teacher pay and putting mental-health professionals in schools.

The House and Senate are set to reconvene at 2 p.m. Monday for the special session to work on bills vetoed by Gov. Jim Justice.

Spokesmen for the House and Senate said the education measures will not be taken up until sometime in June.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso says he put the bills out as a compromise because there's no agreement between legislators.

Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature are expected to push for charter schools and school vouchers in the special session.

This comes one day after teacher union leaders held a press conference asking Gov. Jim Justice to cancel the special session altogether.

UPDATE: 5/16/19

Unions representing teachers and school service workers in West Virginia are calling for an upcoming special legislative session on education to be canceled.

They said Wednesday there's no need for the additional session if lawmakers are going to resurrect proposals for charter schools and other measures that landed the state in a two-day teacher strike earlier this year.

The House and Senate were set to reconvene next week to deal with education but a Senate spokeswoman says they instead will be working on bills that were vetoed. She says education legislation will be taken up in June.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice called the special session after the GOP-led legislature failed to agree on teacher pay raises and other measures during the regular session that ended in March.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Update: 5/14/2019

Local lawmakers we've spoke to say what they hope a special session on education will accomplish.

But the head of a local teacher group has different ideas on what it will deal with.

There's discussion the issues of charter schools and education savings accounts, two things teachers groups say they oppose, will come up again.

But Bruce Boston, President of the Wood County Education Association, maintains those items were not among the concerns of those who attended a recent series of education forums.

"What they do see, is more mental health services within our schools," Boston says. "They want to find the money to hire another mental health professional for every school in West Virginia; that was the top priority. I don't see how charter schools are going to help with that."

Charter schools and ESA's were included in a comprehensive education bill, that passed the Senate back in February but failed in the House of Delegates.

Separate Senate and House bills also included a 5% teacher pay raise.


West Virginia lawmakers will return to Charleston for a special session next Monday afternoon to continue discussions about education reforms.

The session is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. on May 20.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw notified lawmakers Monday afternoon.

According to Hanshaw, lawmakers and education officials are nearing consensus on a path forward with education reform that will empower local communities and increase flexibility in the state’s education system.

"In recent weeks, delegates have been gathering input from parents, administrators, teachers, service personnel and students in our districts to hear their ideas for improving our school system,” Hanshaw said. “We’ve also been discussing ideas with our counterparts at the state Board of Education about how we can work together to improve our education system.

"I believe we are approaching a consensus around a plan that would give local school boards more flexibility and autonomy over their local systems while removing much the cumbersome legislative mandates that have shackled the hands of our professional educators.”

Hanshaw said officials hope to have a news conference Wednesday afternoon to unveil further specifics of this plan.

We'll update this story online and during WTAP News as more information becomes available.

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