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May 17 2021 12:00 am

West Virginia Legislative Special Session agenda shapes up

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – Senate President Mitch Carmichael was presiding Friday, but not over fellow senators. Instead, he was speaking to Raleigh County students on a Capitol tour.

Carmichael says when the special session convenes next month, it will highlight three items: repairing damaged roads across the state; fixing 15-bills vetoed by Governor Justice, and passing a big education reform package. Those reforms will again include the volatile issues of charter schools and education savings accounts.

“I think there’s agreement. In fact, I’m positive that there is agreement, that some component of charter schools should be included. Some component of school choice and flexibility,” said State Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson).

But teacher’s union leaders who attended education forums around the state aren’t buying in.

“And it was overwhelming the number of people that said they weren’t interested in charter schools. They weren’t interested in ESAs,” said Dale Lee, President, West Virginia Education Association.

Having the choice of charter schools is also sharply dividing rank and file lawmakers, as we find out this Sunday on Inside West Virginia Politics.

When asked if he would be open to two or three charters schools, as a pilot program, to be operated in the public school system, Del. Mike Pushkin, (D-Kanawha), “I’m open-minded to anything, but I don’t think that’s going to help the kids in my district, and that’s what I’m most concerned about.”

“Well everyone wants more school choice. Everyone wants teacher and student accountability. More flexibility,” said Del. Joshua Higginbotham, (R-Putnam).

Teachers walked out on strike earlier this year over these issues. Could they be back?

“We will continue to monitor everything and see what’s going on,” said teacher’s union leader Dale Lee.

“Within the context of that bill, there’s a historic pay raise for teachers. That there are more flexible options and local control,” said Sen. Carmichael.

Road repair funding is the next big focus of the special session.

The special session is tentatively set for May 20th and 21st. But with a growing agenda it’s possible it will have to be extended a few days.

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