Dave Mistich Published

House Committee Advances Stripped-Down Version of Education Reform Measure

The House Education Committee meets on Feb. 8, 2019

A West Virginia House of Delegates committee has whittled down a sweeping and controversial education reform bill to a point that it is virtually unrecognizable from the bill that the Senate passed earlier this week. The House Education Committee passed a strike-and-insert version on a 15-10 party-line vote Friday, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed to advancing the measure.

The House Education Committee has offered a proposal that would eliminate many provisions of Senate Bill 451 that public educators and the leaders of their unions oppose. The measure still calls for an average 5 percent pay raise for teachers and school service personnel.

During the committee’s Friday meeting — which began at 9 a.m. and recessed off and on throughout the day for a floor session and other breaks — members removed education savings accounts, as well as a provision that would withhold teacher pay during a strike.

All votes against the amendments to the committee’s proposal came from Republicans.

In meetings earlier this week, the House Education Committee unveiled the proposed strike-and-insert amendment that removed a provision that would force members to sign off annually on the deduction of union dues.

The committee’s initial proposal also removed a non-severability clause that would have made the entire measure null and void if any of its provisions were struck down in a court challenge.

Another change the House Education Committee offered this week would have limited charter schools to two specific programs — one elementary school in Kanawha County and another in Cabell County. An amendment adopted Friday removed the specific counties of the would-be pilots.

The Senate passed the bill Monday on an 18-16 vote that included all of the provisions that have been removed from the House Education Committee’s proposal.

The proposed strike-and-insert amendment from the House Education Committee is formative until it is adopted on the floor on second reading, should delegates choose to do so.

The House Finance Committee will also get a chance to tackle Senate Bill 451 before the full chamber takes it up for consideration.

Educators and school service personnel unions will gather Saturday in Flatwoods to count votes from local members whether to authorize their leaders to call a strike if and when they feel it necessary.

Two public hearings on Senate Bill 451 will be held Monday in the House of Delegates — one at 8 a.m. and another at 5:30 p.m. The second hearing was added after discussion on the House floor about accommodating the travel teachers from out of town who would want to attend.