The West Virginia House of Delegates is set to take a final vote Wednesday on its version of an omnibus education bill.
The state Capitol’s public entrances, which can have long lines due to the entryway metal detectors, open at 7 a.m., House Communications Director Jared Hunt said. The House Chamber is hosting a public hearing on House Bill 206 starting at 8 a.m.
The House’s floor session reconvenes at 11 a.m., and delegates will be able to propose amendments to the bill and debate it. That normally happens the day before the final vote, but delegates agreed Tuesday to allow amendments on the final vote day.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said Monday that, while “we have kept [Senate President Mitch Carmichael] advised of what we were doing, we haven’t necessarily sought out anybody’s input, per se.”
“We actually started — somewhat afresh here,” Hanshaw said. “So we’ve created a House bill out of it, we want the public to understand that this is a House product, this is not the House taking what the Senate did in whole cloth, in fact, it’s quite a different bill now. A lot of it’s been removed. The provisions that many of the most vocal supporters and critics of the bill found to be of concern have either been removed from the bill or exist in a different form.”
HB 206 differs in some important ways from Senate Bill 1039, which Senate Republicans dubbed the Student Success Act. Each chamber will have to agree on a single version of the bill to send it to Gov. Jim Justice for his signature or veto.
The House bill allows for West Virginia’s first charter schools, but limits them to no more than 10. The Senate bill allows an unlimited number of charter schools.
Under the House bill, applicants seeking to create a charter school wouldn’t be able to appeal a county board of education’s denial to the state Board of Education.
The state school board could still, under HB 206, approve charter schools in state takeover counties. However, there aren’t any counties currently under state control. It freed its last ones, Fayette and Gilmer, in 2017.
Unlike the Senate bill, the House bill does not eliminate students’ guaranteed minimum number of instructional minutes per school day. The Senate bill requires an average of five hours per school day.
That would be 300 minutes per day, which is existing policy’s minimum required for early childhood education, 15 minutes less than the minimum for elementary school grades, 30 minutes less than the minimum for middle school grades and 45 minutes less than the minimum for high school grades.
The Senate bill allows for some days to have zero instructional time, as long as the average of five hours daily over the school year is maintained.
The House bill also doesn’t include the Senate bill’s anti-strike provisions. The Senate bill says county superintendents cannot close schools in anticipation of a strike or to help a strike.
SB 1039 also says public worker strikes are unlawful, that school workers may be fired if they strike, that school employees’ pay may be withheld for strike days and that schools would not be able to take part in extracurricular activities on instructional days canceled because of strikes.