The Education Committee room was packed Wednesday morning at the West Virginia statehouse, so many parents, teachers and other interested people lined up in the outside hallway, to listen to the meeting on a TV monitor.
The education bill being discussed could have a big impact on public education, but some of the most controversial items have been altered or removed: a payroll protection provision unions opposed is gone. Educational Savings Accounts would only be for special needs students. A so-called non-severability clause that could have rendered the entire bill unconstitutional, is now removed.
“The majority of the members of the House felt that position was just a non-starter. We didn’t see, leadership didn’t see any way that provision could remain in the bill, or for it to move forward,” said Education Committee Chairman, Delegate Danny Hamrick (R-Harrison).
For now, other unpopular items, like eliminating teacher seniority rights are still on the table.
“Nothing they’re throwing at us makes sense. There’s no way we’re going to let the teachers lose their seniority. That’s more important than any 5% or 10% raise they could possibly get,” said Delegate Ralph Rodighiero (D-Logan).
Charter schools are also still under consideration, although limiting them is possible.
“Limiting it to six charter schools, which is better than what we heard from the Senate, but we still have teachers and folks who are concerned, even about that number,” said David Gladkosky with West Virginia Professional Educators.
Parents gathered in the hall just want better education.
“I would love to see more innovation. More innovation, more nurturing, more one-on-one time between teachers and students,” added Cabell County parent Anna Lewis.
The Education Bill is more than 140 pages long.
The changes made already are not likely to be the last. There are four-and-a-half weeks left in this legislative session, and the bill will bounce back and forth between the House and Senate chambers with more changes coming.