CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Thursday morning a State Senate committee approved bill number 451, a controversial reform measure that would pave the way for public charter schools in the Mountain State.
The bill would also include another 5% pay raise for teachers and other education employees, many of whom went on strike last year.
Critics say this new bill won’t help students, but supporters say it will give more education options.
“We’re giving parents some choice, empowering our teachers, our schools and our counties. There are so many ways that this bill helps strengthen our public school systems,” said State Sen. Patricia Rucker, Chair, (R) Jefferson – Education Committee.
“You know I ran State Legislature because I was a Board of Education member who wanted education reform. The type of education reform we’re getting in this bill though is not student-centered. It’s not going to lead to better student achievement,” said State Sen. Steven Baldwin, (D) Greenbrier.
Perhaps the most controversial item is the potential creating for public charter schools in West Virginia. Critics say it will siphon critical dollars from regular public schools, but supporters say most other states allow charter schools.
“We’re going to have some witnesses later. Get the opportunity to really hear more about those programs, that are in 44-states and the District of Columbia around the country,” said State Sen. Ryan Weld, (R) Brooke – Majority Whip.
But others believe the massive 144-page bill will be ruled unconstitutional.
“Our State Constitution requires that any bill have a single purpose. This bill crosses many, many different parts of the state code. And I think its doomed,” said State Sen. Mike Woelfel, (D) Cabell.
Republican leaders and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey disagree with that.
Now that the Education Bill has been approved by the Committee of the Whole, it will go to a vote of the entire Senate – up or down. It’s likely that vote will be on Monday.