UPDATE: West Virginia teachers will strike again Wednesday

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTAP, WSAZ, AP) - UPDATE 2/19/2019 7:35 PM

A teachers strike in West Virginia will head into a second day.

The leaders of three unions representing teachers and school service personnel made the announcement Tuesday night that the walkout will continue Wednesday.

The Republican-led House voted earlier to indefinitely table a complex education bill that the unions oppose.

Without being specific, West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee says the unions believe there's still a small chance there could be further developments with the legislation.

West Virginia School Service Personnel Association Executive Director Joe White says that although the unions' trust in the House has been somewhat restored, there is no trust in the Senate leadership, which has tried to rush the bill to passage.

White says "we've got to stay out one more day to make sure that this is a dead bill tomorrow."


UPDATE 2/19/2019 7:18 PM

Teachers' unions in West Virginia say they have authorized educators to strike again Wednesday, saying they have no trust lawmakers will act in their best interest in the education reform matter.

It is the second consecutive day union leaders have called a statewide work stoppage in response to the controversial omnibus education bill. By all indications, it appears the bill was dead Tuesday evening.


UPDATE: 02/19/2019, 5:09 p.m.

West Virginia's Superintendent of Schools wants classes to resume Wednesday, and Gov. Jim Justice asks lawmakers to consider his teacher pay raise bill, after Senate Bill 451 was tabled Tuesday.

The Superintendent, Dr. Steven Paine, says: “Based on the action taken today by the House of Delegates, SB 451 has been tabled indefinitely. Educator voices were clearly heard. I strongly encourage all county school systems to return to school tomorrow, February 20. I urge educators to respect the process and allow it to work. I understand that there is still concern over what may happen next. Both Governor Justice and many members of the legislature have shown a commitment to listening to the voice of educators and doing what is best for West Virginia students. Additionally, Governor Justice has called for the legislature to consider his stand-alone pay raise bill along with other measures to improve county finances and I am confident they will do so.”


UPDATE 2/19/19 @ 4:08 p.m.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is asking lawmakers to consider his pay raise bill. This comes after the state House of Delegates voted to indefinitely postpone any action on Senate Bill 451, an omnibus education bill that led to a statewide teacher strike this week.

"My bill's clean," said Justice. "Do this right now. Pass my bill and then take up this bill [SB 451] separately."

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

Justice said earlier in the day that he would veto the omnibus education bill if it reached his desk.

"That education bill is dead and I'm glad of that," said Justice. "I wanted us to celebrate the goodness and how far we've come... We all know we've got a long way to go."

Justice said he sees several problems with the current version of the SB 451, including the vouchers for kids in need at charter schools. He said charter schools will eventually run out of money and the children will end up back in public education.

"It just doesn't make sense to me," said Justice.

The governor said more needs to be done for public education before the state tackles charter schools.

Instead, he wants lawmakers to pass his bill, House Bill 2730, that does not include charter schools or major education reform.

HB 2730 would raise the annual salaries for West Virginia State Police, public school teachers, and school service personnel.

"Today, right now, I'm calling them to pass my pay raise bill," urged Justice. "The bill that I sent up -- the clean bill that's a pay raise bill for all government employees -- I'm calling on them to do that now."

Schools in 54 of 55 West Virginia counties closed Tuesday due to a statewide teacher strike.

Justice told a room of reporters that he wants educators to go back to work. He said that employees have the right to make their own decisions, but he believes it is best for West Virginia for schools to be in session.

"Whatever they decide to do, I will be respectful of the voice," said Justice. Encouraging educators to go back to work, he repeated the phrase, "Smarter minds need to rule the day."

Regardless of lawmakers' intent, Justice said this process did not need to happen.

"We didn't need, I don't think, to just blow our legs off for the sake of blowing our legs off," said Justice.

The governor also spoke about the state's highs and lows. "I'm on a mission from God," said the governor. He spoke about the drug epidemic, jobs, roads, and other topics before addressing the education system.


UPDATE: 2/19/2019, 3:00 p.m.
Below are the statements issued by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, Senate President Mitch Carmichael, and teacher union leaders, after the House of Delegates indefinitely tabled Senate Bill 451 on Tuesday afternoon:

Gov. Jim Justice says: "They have a right to voice their opinion. And, they have a right to be concerned, because, you know, they really don't know what's going to happen. And if, and if at the end of the day they decide not to voice their opinion and, and it goes awry on them, then they're going to wish they were here."

Senate President Mitch Carmichael says: “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.”

Randi Weingarten, President of the National American Federation of Teachers union, says: "What you see here is you see people, teachers, who would rather be in classrooms not out on the streets fighting. Not only for a voice for themselves but fighting to make sure that we have public schools. And they are willing to give up their raise in order to make sure that there's public schools and they are making sure that they have a voice. Not a dictatorship in West Virginia. A democracy in West Virginia. And that means you don't stifle and snuff out teachers."

Governor Jim Justice has scheduled a news conference for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss Senate Bill 451.

The leaders of the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association have scheduled a joint news conference for 5 p.m. Tuesday in Charleston.


UPDATE: 2/19/2019, 12:40 p.m.
The West Virginia House of Delegates voted Tuesday afternoon to indefinitely postpone Senate Bill 451, an education reform bill. A statewide teacher strike began Tuesday morning to protest the bill.

With a vote of 53-45, delegates adopted a motion to indefinitely postpone Senate Bill 451.

The House then adjourned until Wednesday.

Educators went on strike in 54 of West Virginia's 55 counties Tuesday, to protest parts of Senate Bill 451, which would make a variety of changes to the state's education system.

According to the West Virginia 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.

Educators are on strike in 45 of West Virginia's 55 counties Tuesday.


UPDATE: 2/19/19 12:20 P.M.
As teachers cheered behind him, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said he would veto an omnibus education bill that has prompted a strike if it reaches his desk.

“I would,” he said.

Fifty-four of the state's 55 county school systems were closed on Tuesday.

The governor stopped short of saying educators have a right to strike. But when asked for his view, he said they do have a right to express their opinion.

“These people are very concerned about what they do in life," he said. "We shouldn’t be judgmental about what they decide to do to exercise their voice. I wish we weren’t on strike. But they have every chance to exercise their voice."

This is West Virginia’s second teacher strike in two years.

Last year, the walkout focused on pay and the stability of health insurance.

This year, the dynamic is different.

Justice promised another pay raise back in October and said Tuesday that bill should have gone through on its own. Instead, it was bundled with other provisions.

“We should have moved this thing through,"he said. "Now we’ve got a situation where kids are out of school, parents are disrupted. Educators are unhappy. And we go back to the thing I said before, Why?”

Justice’s comments came this morning on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” Teachers gathered behind him as he talked.

The West Virginia American Federation of Teachers, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association called the strike Monday evening as the Senate started passage of an education bill that would allow seven charter schools and 1,000 education savings accounts, which provide funding for students leaving public schools for private education.

Every county school system in West Virginia except for Putnam County was closed on Tuesday.

Justice, a Republican, finds himself on the opposite side of the issue from the Republican-led Senate.

“I’m sure the senators are reasonable people, and they’re trying to do the right thing,” he said. “But they’re not doing the right thing.”

He said his own leadership is necessary to resolve the differences.

“In all honesty, I’ve got to be the coach. I’ve got to be the leader,” he said. “I stand ready to meet with all the parties and try to push this thing across the finish line.”


UPDATE: 02/19/2019, 8:28 a.m.
Schools in 54 of 55 West Virginia counties are closed due to a statewide teacher strike that began Tuesday, as teachers protest parts of Senate Bill 451, a proposed education reform bill

Many protesters - including teachers, parents and students - are lined up outside public schools across West Virginia, holding signs that read, "Our Students First," and "Honk for Students."

54 of the 55 county superintendents closed school Monday evening after the the strike was announced.

Putnam County schools remained open Tuesday.

Many educators are upset after the West Virginia Senate voted to put some controversial components back in the amended bill, including allowing more charter schools and educational savings accounts to help parents pay for charter school costs.

Teachers are also not happy with the bill's $500 incentive amount for teachers with good attendance.

Some educators say Senate Bill 451's passage is retaliation for the 2018 statewide teacher strike, which lasted nine days.


UPDATE: 02/18/2019, 6:18 p.m.
Officials from three West Virginia teachers unions announced Monday that a statewide teacher strike will begin on Tuesday in response to Senate Bill 451, a proposed education-reform bill.

The West Virginia American Federation of Teachers, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association jointly announced the strike at a news conference at the State Capitol late Monday afternoon.

“We just found out from Charleston, there was a press conference of our state leadership, the statewide AFT association, the WVEA, and the School Personnel Association got together and they have called for a statewide strike starting [Tuesday]. It’s regrettable we’ve gotten to this position but they are simply not listening to the people of West Virginia in the Senate,” says Bruce Boston of the Wood County Education Association.

“We are evidently not going to work [Tuesday], and it’s a shame because we want to be with our students. We want to teach, but we feel like our hands have been forced in this situation,” Greg Merritt, AFT Wood County President.

It will be the second consecutive year that education workers have walked off the job. They staged a nine-day walkout last spring.

We'll have more information about the strike on WTAP.com and during our evening newscasts as more information becomes available.


UPDATE: 02/18/2019, 4:15 p.m.
The West Virginia State Senate 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.

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.


UPDATE: 02/16/19
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: 2/15/2019 5:00 P.M.
A local senator believes at least some of the items the House of Delegates removed from a comprehensive Senate education bill will return to that measure.

The House approved its version of the bill Thursday. It does not include education savings accounts for families to pay for private schools, and limits the number of charter schools in the state.

Another change, to the school aid formula, would benefit Pleasants and several other smaller counties.

A sponsor of the bill believes those provisions-and others-are important to improving West Virginia's school system.

"Very important, institutional, fundamental changes to the education system that needed to be done for many years," said Senator Mike Azinger (R-Wood County). "We need to keep as many of those changes in the bill that we possibly can that we send to the governor."

Teachers say the House changes are an improvement over the Senate version, but still are considering a work stoppage to protest it.

Teachers and other education personnel in Wood County plan a vigil to express their concerns. It's set for 5:00 Monday afternoon at Parkersburg City Park.


UPDATE: 2/14/19 1:10 P.M.
The West Virginia House of Delegates approved a package of education reforms Thursday afternoon by a 71-29 vote.

The state Senate previously passed a version of the bill, and a conference committee of delegates and senators must now meet to iron out difference in the bill.

According to information provided by the House communications department, the House version approved on Thursday provides a 5 percent pay raise for teachers and a $2,000 bonus for certified math teachers.

Among other things, the House bill allows for the creation of no more than two charter schools, but it does not provide education savings accounts.

The Senate version allows unlmited charter schools and provides education savings accounts for households with an annual income less than $150,000. It also allows only 2,500 accounts.

The legislation also provides a $250 tax credit for school supplies and $1,000 year-end bonus to teacher and service workers who are not absent more than four days.

The Senate version of the bill provides the tax credit only to teachers and sets the year-end bonus at $500 for teachers only.

We'll have more on this developing story online and during our evening newcasts.


'UPDATE: 2/14/19 11:30 A.M.
West Virginia teachers and school administrators opposed to a complex education bill have held a candlelight vigil outside the state Capitol Wednesday evening as the House of Delegates met in a marathon debate.

The House worked into Wednesday night on amendments to the bill. More than 30 amendments were on the agenda.

Outside, dozens of people cheered upon learning the House had rejected one of several amendments addressing charter schools.

The Senate passed its version of the bill last week. It would allow charter schools statewide.

At the vigil, Tyler County schools Superintendent Robin Daquilante urged the Legislature "to stop using our children as pawns in your political arena. Please do what's right for the students of West Virginia in public education."

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.

Delgate Doug Skaff, a Democrat 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.

Delegate 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.

Delegate 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 02/13/2019, 12:02 p.m.
On Wednesday, West Virginia lawmakers began a second reading and discussion of the House Finance Amendment to the education reform bill originally known as Senate Bill 451.

The proposed legislation, which involves laws on charter schools, education savings accounts, teacher pay, and other education issues - received backlash from public educators statewide.

Teachers across the state have voted to strike if they are not happy with the legislative process regarding the bill.

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

Delegates have to go over more than 30 proposed amendments to the bill.

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 Senate Bill 451.

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


UPDATE 02/12/2019, 11:11 a.m.
Members of the House Finance Committee rallied Tuesday morning and voted for a House Education version of a broad-ranging education reform 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 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: 02/11/2019 6 P.M.
95 people spoke at the hearing at 8 a.m. Monday morning, each receiving 70 seconds to speak to the West Virginia House of Delegates.

Wood County Superintendent William Hosaflook said that around 20 people spoke favorably about Senate Bill 451 in its original state, while the rest spoke against it.

Bruce Boston, the Wood County Education Association President and teacher at Jackson Middle School attended the hearing Monday evening and has a strong stance on the bill.

“I think it’s important to note that the teachers are out there basically going out and lobbying against the bill that would give them a 5% pay increase because basically our stance is if we have to take the rest of this to get 5%, keep the 5%. We don’t want it,” notes Bruce Boston, Wood County Education Association President.

Wood County Education officials said that they share a common goal with the legislators, but wish they had been more involved in the process.

“Mostly, what we heard today was the lack of collaboration among the education professionals. I think the feeling is that the educators, Superintendents, teachers, service personnel, we just weren’t included. We were not included in actually discussing how to reform education,” says William Hosaflook, Wood County Superintendent.

“The thing that I found common across everyone that was there is that we all want to improve the education system. It’s just that everybody has a different way of doing that,” explains Rick Olcott, Wood County Board of Education President.

They said many who spoke disagree with the bill because of provisions for charter schools and education savings accounts

UPDATE: 2/11/2019, 10:15 a.m.
The first public hearing Monday at the West Virginia State Capitol on the omnibus education bill is over.

A second public hearing is scheduled for Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the West Virginia House Chamber at the State Capitol.

60 People signed up to speak at both meetings.

Each person will get 70 seconds to voice their opinions on the proposed education bill.

The public hearings are 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 last week to authorize “work actions," meaning a strike, if they feel it is necessary.

The votes were tallied at a meeting in Fairmont on Saturday.


UPDATE: 2/11/2019, 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.


UPDATE: 2/8/2019, 12:55 p.m.
The West Virginia House voted Friday to hold a second public hearing for Senate Bill 451, the comprehensive education reform bill.

Both hearings will be held on Monday, Feb. 11, at 8:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., in the House Chamber at the State Capitol in Charleston.

The second hearing follows a request from education union leaders to move the time of the hearing so teachers could participate in it.

Some opponents of Senate Bill 451 say the Senate version of the bill, passed Monday, is retaliation for last year's nine-day, statewide teachers' strike.

The latest House version of the bill would remove a provision to require teachers to sign off annually on union dues, and would also remove a clause that would invalidate the entire bill if any part of it is struck down.

The changed bill also caps charter schools at 6 statewide, and does not allow virtual charter schools to operate in the state.

Education savings accounts, which are vouchers for students moving from public school to a private education, would be limited to special needs students.

A provision in the Senate bill that would have withheld wages during a work stoppage was changed to allow for those wages to be repaid once school days are made up.

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.

It would allow counties to raise levy rates up to a set maximum, rather than relying on state formula.

The bill is also referenced to the House Finance Committee.

It passed out of the Senate on an 18-16 vote on Monday.


UPDATE: 2/7/2019, 2:07 p.m.
A public hearing for West Virginia Senate Bill 451, the comprehensive education reform bill, is set for 8:00 a.m. Monday, Feb. 11, in the House Chamber at the State Capitol in Charleston.

On Thursday, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, (R-Clay), requested a public hearing for Senate Bill 451, to accept input on the bill from teachers, school administrators, parents, students, and the public.

Speaker Hanshaw said, “While our Education and Finance committees hear from experts on questions related to this bill, this hearing will allow those on the front lines of our education system to weigh in. We want to make our education system the best it can be for all involved, and this hearing will provide valuable input on this process.”

As part of House Rule 84, a public hearing cannot be scheduled sooner than two days after the hearing time and place has been announced on the House floor.

On Wednesday, the West Virginia House Education Committee removed parts of Senate Bill 451, including a non-severability clause and 'paycheck protection' provision that would require education union members to sign off on their dues annually.

The changed bill also caps charter schools at 6 statewide, and does not allow virtual charter schools to operate in the state.

Education savings accounts, which are vouchers for students moving from public school to a private education, would be limited to special needs students.

A provision in the Senate bill that would have withheld wages during a work stoppage was changed to allow for those wages to be repaid once school days are made up.

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.

It would allow counties to raise levy rates up to a set maximum, rather than relying on state formula.

The bill is also referenced to the House Finance Committee.

It passed out of the Senate on an 18-16 vote on Monday.


UPDATE 2/6/2019, 6:15 p.m.
The West Virginia House Education Committee has removed two controversial parts of a major education reform bill it considered for the first time on Wednesday.

Committee members heard a summary of a strike-and-insert amendment that would make some significant changes.

A non-severability clause was no longer in the bill

Nor was a ‘paycheck protection’ provision that would require education union members to sign off on their dues annually.

The committee substitute bill that was explained by staff counsel during an hour and a half Wednesday morning also made several other significant changes from the way the bill was passed out of the state Senate.

Charter schools were capped at six.

The bill no longer allows for virtual charter schools.

Education savings accounts, which are vouchers for students moving from public school to a private education, would be limited to special needs students.

A provision in the Senate bill that would have withheld wages during a work stoppage was changed to allow for those wages to be repaid once school days are made up.

House Education Committee Chairman Danny Hamrick told committee members this is just a starting point, and he believes the bill will change as it goes through the legislative process.

The committee recessed after a morning meeting and intends to resume its work this afternoon.

As the bill moves through the committee process, delegates and committees can continue to propose amendments.

Once the bill hits the House floor, delegates could vote to accept either the original Senate version or whatever has been produced by committee.

“It’s addressing many of the concerns I’ve heard about,” House Majority Whip Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, said during a floor speech today, describing a cautious approach to school choice issues.

The big bill does a lot.

It includes long-promised pay raises for educators.

The bill also opens the way for charter schools and educational savings accounts that would set aside public dollars for private schooling for a certain number of participants.

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.

It would allow counties to raise levy rates up to a set maximum, rather than relying on state formula.

The bill is also referenced to the House Finance Committee.

It passed out of the Senate on an 18-16 vote.


UPDATE: 2/5/2019
At a legislative breakfast Tuesday morning, the Speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates indicated the comprehensive education bill would go through a much more common process in the House than it took in the Senate.

"This bill is going to be processed the same way as every bill that's processed by the House," said Speaker Roger Hanshaw. "We're treating it like we treat every major policy initiative. It's going to go through the committee process, it's going to be on the floor of the House, there will be opportunities for debate and amendment in every stage of that process."

But there are things a local lawmaker likes in the major, and controversial legislation. They include the local control provision and its proposed flexibility and expense deduction for teachers.

Delegate Vernon Criss has a daughter who teaches in Wirt County.

"The things she needs to do her job well, is important to me to make sure those things happen," says Criss, Chairman of the House Finance Committee. "And if it gets her a little more working tools in the classroom, that's what we're trying to do."

The bill, as expected, was forwarded to the House Education Committee.


UPDATE: 2/5/2019
A comprehensive education bill has been sent to a House of Delegates committee after a delegate unsuccessfully tried to indefinitely postpone its consideration.

The Republican-led House Tuesday approved a move by Majority Leader Amy Summers to table the motion by Pendleton County Democrat Isaac Sponaugle.

The bill was referred to the House education committee.

Sponaugle calls the bill a "pig." He says "I don't care how much lipstick you're going to put on it. You're not going to make it any prettier."

Teachers' unions plan to vote in the coming week whether to authorize statewide action against the bill if necessary, including a strike. The bill includes plans to open charter schools and would require teachers to sign off annually on union dues. It also includes a 5 percent pay raise.


UPDATE: 2/5/2019
In spite of opposition from teacher and education groups, a mammoth education package gets mostly party line Senate approval.

Democrats, in particular, were united in their opposition.

"You would not try to do the electrical work in your house if you were not an experienced electrician," Democratic Senator Stephen Baldwin said Monday during debate on the bill. "Yet, you're attempting to reform public education without involving educators. It's a recipe for disaster."

But backers say the bill was the result of input from parents, boards of education and even teachers. The key, they say, is flexibility, especially for school boards.

"As counties with levies,", Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump argued, "as their levies grow, they get to keep the money in those counties, and use it for education."

"Charter schools is an option. It's a tool," added Patricia Rucker, Senate Education Chair and a major sponsor of the bill. "Open enrollment is an option. Maybe they can find what they need at another public school. An education savings account is an option."

The bill goes on to the House of Delegates, and, if passed there, Governor Jim Justice, who opposes some key parts of it, has indicated he may veto it.

Teacher groups weighing a statewide walkout hope changes can be made.

"Hopefully, they'll slow it down, take it apart, deal with it piece by piece by piece," said Bruce Boston, President of the Wood County Education Association.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw released a statement after the Senate's passage of the bill, saying the bill will be reviewed "in a deliberate manner".

He indicated, however, he supports some of the goals outlined in the Senate bill.

“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."


UPDATE: 02/04/19 2:45 P.M.
After several hours of discussions, the West Virginia Senate on Monday passed a a controversial omnibus education bill by an 18-16 vote.

Senate Bill 451 now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration.

The bill is opposed by many educators and union leaders in part because of a provision that would allow charter schools in the state.

We'll have updates online and on WTAP News @ 5 and 6.


UPDATE: 1/31/19 1 P.M.
A controversial education bill is moving forward in the West Virginia Senate after passing its first reading.

Senate Bill 451 is broad-ranging legislation. The omnibus bill touches on a variety of education issues, starting with pay raises for teachers. 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.

Lawmakers wrapped up discussion in Senate chambers by noon Thursday, advancing the bill to a second reading on Friday. The Committee of the Whole passed the legislation with a vote of 18-16.

Earlier this week, the Senate majority voted to bypass the Senate Finance Committee and instead let the whole membership consider the education bill. The full Senate serving as one committee is rarely seen.

Legislators spent the entire day Wednesday discussing the bill. Most of the debate focused on opening the way for charter schools, allowing for a certain number of vouchers that people could use for private school and giving county boards greater leeway in raising property tax levies.

The bill is more than 140 pages long and needs to go through three readings by the full state Senate before it goes to the House for consideration.

The Senate is adjourned until 11 a.m. Friday.


UPDATE 1/31/19 12:30 P.M.
The West Virginia Senate acting as a committee of the whole advanced an omnibus education bill to the full Senate late Thursday morning.

The vote was 18-16.

Senate Bill 451 now moves to full Senate, where it's expected there will be three full readings. It it's approved there, it would move to the House of Delegates.

We'll have more on this story online and on WTAP News as more information becomes available.


UPDATE: 1/30/2019 5:00 P.M.
The West Virginia Board of Education Wednesday voted to endorse some items in a comprehensive education bill before the state Senate.

But the state schools superintendent issued a statement agreeing with those opposed to the measure, that all of its provisions be considered separately, rather than in a single bill.

“Our State education leaders haven’t had the opportunity to give input into this monumental bill and it is absolutely necessary to have those frank discussions and debates with individuals inside our state,” Superintendent Steven Paine said in a statement. “I fully support Governor Justice’s stance that each item contained in Senate Bill 451 be fairly vetted individually and I do not believe the appropriate level of discussion can happen in a one to two-day timeframe. Additionally, I am very concerned that several measures within this bill have the potential to accelerate school closures and consolidations and weaken community schools in our state.”

The state board voted to support some items in the bill, including a 5% pay raise for teachers, also supported by the governor.

But it voted to oppose other items, including one establishing charter schools, and another allowing teachers to endorse payroll deductions for union dues, rather than an automatic deduction from a teacher's paycheck.


UPDATE: 1/30/2019 4:30 P.M.
There has been one change in a comprehensive education bill under consideration by the West Virginia Senate.

State senators heard an explanation of the bill Wednesday.

The latest version removed a proposal increasing elementary school class sizes, something heavily opposed by teacher groups.

That comes a day after Gov. Jim Justice said that, while there are some good ideas in the bill, he is opposed to some of its provisions.

For those reasons, Justice suggested he might veto the measure if it reached his desk as it is currently written.

One of the bill's co-sponsors is Sen. Mike Azinger (R-Wood County). He hopes the governor changes his mind and gets behind the bill.

"We have a lot of great teachers in West Virginia, but a lot of the time, they're not given the ability to teach," Azinger said Wednesday. "And we're down to around 45th in the nation with our education system."

Teachers from across the state, most off work due to weather-related school closings, convened in Charleston for Wednesday's Senate session.

"Most (teachers) are kind of anxious to see where this bill is going to go," said Bruce Boston, President of the Wood County Education Association, "what changes are to be made, how charter schools will impact us if this were to be passed, and how this will there's going to be some give and take with other issues we have with the bill."

Among other things, the bill would create public charter schools while establishing savings accounts for families to pay for private school education for their children. it would also require teachers to sign off annually on union dues.


UPDATE: 1/30/19 - 12:07 P.M.
The West Virginia Senate is in recess until 12:45 p.m. Wednesday


UPDATE 1/30/19 11:20 A.M.
The West Virginia Senate is in chambers Wednesday to discuss an omnibus education bill.

Many teachers across the state have said Senate Bill 451 is detrimental to public education.

The 144-page bill has more than 60 components, including things like teacher salaries and education overhauls and charter schools. Unions are in support of the pay raise, but don't believe the all-or-nothing approach is fair. At Monday's meeting, teachers spoke out about everything they say is wrong with the bill, like charter schools and increased class sizes.

In a rare move, members of the West Virginia Senate voted Monday to skip the committee process for the education omnibus bill and send it straight to the full body.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice says he would veto the bill if it passes in the Legislature. Justice said at a news conference Tuesday that lawmakers should instead consider passing his original intent of giving teachers and other state employees a 5 percent pay raise without the multiple facets of the bill now before the Republican-led Senate.


UPDATE 1/28/19 10:25 P.M.
In a rare move, members of the West Virginia Senate voted Monday to skip the committee process for the education omnibus bill and send it straight to the full body. Later that evening, unions across the state met to discuss their next moves.

Dinah Adkins, co-president of the Kanawha County Education Association, said teachers and service personnel were stunned when they heard about the bill. She said the Senate did not consult any West Virginia educators when creating the bill.

"Even if it means us not getting a raise or funding PEIA, we do not want this passed because of what it's going to do to our children," Kanawha County teacher Leahann Guthrie said.

Many teachers at the meeting said the senate's proposed omnibus education bill is detrimental to public education.

"It's an absolute waste of paper. It's not worth the ink," teacher B.J. Fontalbert said.

Adkins said the bill is retaliation after the strike in 2018. However, Senate President Mitch Carmichael said that is not the case.

"It is incredibly important for anyone that wants to focus on providing a world class education for our citizens, this is the right bill to do it," Carmichael said.

The 144-page bill has more than 60 components, including things like teacher salaries and education overhauls and charter schools. Unions are in support of the pay raise, but don't believe the all-or-nothing approach is fair. At Monday's meeting, teachers spoke out about everything they say is wrong with the bill, like charter schools and increased class sizes.

Adkins said teachers will be watching legislators closely as they consider their next move and nothing is off the table.

"Teachers are ready to take action if they need to. Do they want to? No, but do they have a red shirt and are they ready to roll? Absolutely," Adkins said.

Carmichael says the Senate as a whole will act as a committee, and they will meet in the chamber to discuss the issue when a fiscal note is ready. He would name a chairman, and other committees would be canceled.

He's encouraging educators and teacher unions to come and voice their points, and educators are hoping legislators will listen to those who spend every day in the classroom.


UPDATE 1/28/19 5:35 P.M.
In a rare move, members of the West Virginia Senate voted Monday to skip the committee process for the education omnibus bill and send it straight to the full body -- just moments after a coalition of West Virginia education groups met at the Capitol to speak out about their concerns over the bill.

This is unsettling for educators already concerned about the 144-page bill.

"Unfortunately they are playing games with the lives of our children's futures and the livelihood of our educators," said Dale Lee, president of the WVEA.

The 144-page bill has more than 60 components, including things like teacher salaries and education overhauls and charter schools. Unions are in support of the pay raise, but don't believe the all-or-nothing approach is fair.

"The Senate leadership is using this bill as a way to exact revenge for the actions of our educators this past spring. Sadly it seems it is more important for them to get revenge than to follow their own legislative process than work to improve our schools," Lee said.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael says this bill isn't about revenge, but moving up in the ranks.

"There is no retaliation, what we are doing is providing education for the next generation of West Virginia," Carmichael said. "It is incredibly important for anyone that wants to focus on providing a world class education for our citizens, this is the right bill to do it."

Carmichael says the move to send it to the entire Senate now, rather than a committee, is to get everyone on the same page early in the process.

Fred Albert, president of AFT West Virginia, says they want to keep the teachers in school, but the possibility of another strike is not out of question.

"We have members that are very unsettled about this omnibus retaliation bill," Albert said. "We are listening to our members, so as Dale Lee has said, everything is a possibility."

Carmichael says the Senate as a whole will act as a committee, and they will meet in the chamber to discuss the issue when a fiscal note is ready. He would name a chairman, and other committees would be canceled.

He's encouraging educators and teacher unions to come and voice their points.


ORIGINAL STORY 1/28/19
A possible West Virginia education reform bill has educators concerned.

"It's a show of disrespect by the Senate to the educators who stood strongly," said Dale Lee, President of the West Virginia Education Association.

The bill could include the 5% pay raise Gov. Jim Justice has promised, but it may include education overhauls, such as charter schools, and education savings accounts.

Things education associations, represented by Lee, don't support.

"We have problems with several of the bills. We have problems with the educational savings account, the charter schools, the payroll protection, we have difficulties with different parts of the bill, but to combine them all in one just makes it even worse," said Lee.

Worse, and according to educators, illegal.

They sent a letter to Senate President Mitch Carmichael to voice their concerns.

In the letter, they said the possible bill would violate the Single Object Provision of the Constitution, something Carmichael said just isn't true.

"Anyone that questions that just is not familiar with the process or with the Constitution," Carmichael said. "It is completely constitutional. It is about general education reform."

Reforming West Virginia's education system will take a lot of change, according to Carmichael.

He says that is why the possible bill has taken on the nickname, "The Omnibus Bill."

"All these components of the education reform package are put together to lift the level of achievement for our students, and taking these things individually, or peace-meal, is not the proper way to reform an entire system that's been allowed to atrophy and fail our students," Carmichael said.

Carmichael said students are his top priority, but educators disagree and feel they're getting short-changed in the process.

A feeling they say they're familiar with.

"You saw thousands of educators here last year because of the anger and mistrust," said Lee. "For the Senate to put this all in one omnibus bill, is really a slap in the face to the educators once again."

Now they wait to see if this bill becomes reality.



 
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