CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The West Virginia Senate is in an all-day committee meeting and debate over Senate Bill 451.
It would give teachers another 5-percent pay raise and fix their health insurance costs. But it would also create some items that critics don’t like.
They include charter schools and educational savings accounts.
Democrats want to vote on each item seperately, but most Republicans say the all-encompassing reform bill is the way to go.
“Items in the bill like ESAs and charter schools, and school choice. This is a huge happening here and historical. And this is great for parents and great for kids and great for teachers,” said State Sen. Mike Azinger, (R) Wood.
“We ought to look at the pay raises. The promises that were made by the Governor and the Republicans. And then give those pay raises and then sit down with those other issues,” said State Sen. John Unger, (D) Berkeley.
The bill has been under consideration for less than a week. That has the State Board of Education very concerned.
“Well, this is very rare that this would happen. And of course the speed has caused us to have this emergency session,” said Dave Perry, President, West Virginia Board of Education.
Teachers packed the galleries in their signature red t-shirts. A walk-out like last year’s strike is still possible. The Governor was also making rounds at the Capitol. He wants his teacher pay raise bill handled separately, and no strike.
“Of course I don’t want to see the teachers walk out because that hurts our kids. You know, and it hurts our state,” said Gov. Jim Justice, (R) West Virginia.
Republican leaders say all-encompassing education reform is long overdue.
“We know that we’re rank 50th in this, and we know we’ve got to be able to change this. So granting the counties greater flexibility is a good thing,” said State Sen. Craig Blair, Chairman, (R) Berkeley – Finance Committee.
$93 million dollars is the projected cost, of implementing the Education Reform Bill.
Even if the Education Bill passes here in the Senate, it faces an uncertain future when it heads down the Hallway to the House of Delegates.