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Today in the Legislature

Friday, February 08, 2019 - 07:43 PM

House Education Advances Senate Education Bill

The House Education Committee advanced a Senate education bill after making several changes to the original version.

The committee continued its third day of discussion on Senate Bill 451, hearing from agency and school representatives and adopting several amendments before legislators adopted the proposed strike-and-insert amendment and advanced the bill in a 15-10 vote. The bill now heads before the House Finance Committee.

The Senate passed the bill earlier this week following days of debate and deliberation. The measure, as passed by the Senate, introduced public charter schools, Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), a $250 tax credit for teachers buying supplies, a 5 percent pay increase to teachers and service personnel, and a $500 bonus for teachers who miss fewer than 10 days during an academic year.

Charter schools would be open in any school district and would be opt-in. ESAs would be open for 2,500 students who attend public charter schools in the state.

Several aspects of the Senate’s version of the bill were changed in a proposed strike-and-insert amendment presented in the House Education Committee.  

The House Education Committee adopted an amendment that eliminated Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs, from the bill.  

The strike-and-insert also limited the amount of charter schools. Originally, the committee proposed a pilot program of two schools—an elementary school in Cabell County and an elementary school in Kanawha County. However, the committee later adopted an amendment that kept the limit of two charter schools but broadened it to be two statewide instead of from Kanawha and Cabell counties.

The strike-and-insert removed virtual charter schools from the bill, changed the implementation date of establishing charter schools to July 2020. The strike-and-insert also would add a severability clause and removed a provision that would require unions to get written permission from members before spending membership dues on political causes.

The committee considered several amendments Friday evening. Following its initial rejection, an amendment was brought back up for consideration regarding work stoppages. The amendment, which was adopted the second time, would remove a section where county boards would withhold pay during a work stoppage.

Another amendment the committee adopted would have a majority of employees in a school proposed for a charter school and the majority of parents or guardians of kids that would go to that school to approve converting to a charter school.

Another amendment the committee adopted required charter schools to guarantee enrollment to all students previously enrolled in a public school and to guarantee enrollment for all students residing in that school’s attendance area.

The committee additionally approved amendments dealing with seniority, establishing and funding at a minimum of $5 million for School Innovation Zones, and an amendment that stated no elected official could profit or receive monetary consideration from charter schools unless the elected official is employed at the school before its conversion.

The committee rejected several amendments including one that would void the entire bill, an amendment to double the tax credit from $250 to $500 for supplies, an amendment calling for an education adequacy cost study, and an amendment to increase the annual bonus from $500 to $2,000 for teachers who don’t use more than four personal days.

Two public hearings on Senate Bill 451 are scheduled for Monday in the House Chamber – one taking place at 8 a.m. and the other at 5:30 p.m.




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