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Big Ed Bill Likely to be Broken Up After It Passes WV Senate

When the West Virginia Senate goes back into special session today, the leadership probably will have the votes to pass a nearly 150-page education bill. (Dan Heyman)
When the West Virginia Senate goes back into special session today, the leadership probably will have the votes to pass a nearly 150-page education bill. (Dan Heyman)
June 3, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Stiff opposition looks likely to force the breakup of the big education bill now in the West Virginia state Senate.

Gov. Jim Justice said Senate Bill 1039 - the so-called Student Success Act - goes too far in trying to push through unlimited charter schools, among many other provisions. Senate President Mitch Carmichael probably has enough Republican votes to pass the bill over the objections of all Democrats and two GOP defectors.

But Democratic Sen. Bob Beach pointed out that at a series of public meetings, nearly 90% of people who showed up opposed charters and other steps that could undermine public schools.

"You're still not listening. After all these months and all these weeks and all these meetings, you're still not listening. No means no,” Beach said. “It's like a bad date where there's two people in that vehicle and one is just mauling the other one, wanting something. And that's what we have here. No means no."

Beach's comments sparked sharp controversy, with one senator calling them vile and dishonest. The Republican Speaker of the House of Delegates has signaled provisions such as the charter school question will have to stand or fall alone when the bill gets to the House.

Critics of the bill have called for separate legislation on teacher and school employee pay raises without them being tied to charter schools. Democratic Sen. John Unger said the Senate should do what the House looks likely to - un-bundle the legislation and send the parts through the committees.

"The good, the bad and the ugly all together reminds me of when you go to a yard sale and they put everything in a box. And there's one lamp that works but the rest of it's junk. I'd like to take the lamp that works. 'No, you guys take the whole box or forget it,’” Unger said.

Provisions that include more in-school mental-health and wrap-around services for poor and troubled students have broad support. But the bill also has drawn fire for what critics call a bit of anti-union retribution in response to teachers' walkouts in 2018 and 2019. That section would dock teachers' pay for days on strike.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV