Thursday morning a State Senate committee approved Senate Bill 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-percent pay raise for teachers and other education employees, many of whom went on strike last year.
Critics said this new bill won’t help students, but supporters feel 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 Senator Patricia Rucker (R-Jefferson), Chair of the Education Committee.
“I ran for 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,” added Senator Steven Baldwin, (D-Greenbrier).
Perhaps the most controversial item is the potential creating for public charter schools in West Virginia. Critics believe it will siphon critical dollars from regular public schools, but supporters said 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 Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld (R-Brooke).
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 Senator Mike Woelfel (D-Cabell).
Republican leaders and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey disagree.
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.