The House Education Committee advanced Friday night the West Virginia Senate’s education overhaul bill, after recommending significant changes.
The vote was 15-10 with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed.
Committee members recommended removing a provision that would provide public money for private-, online- and home-schooling.
Seven Republican delegates — Martin Atkinson, Roy Cooper, Mark Dean, Patrick Martin, Matthew Rohrbach, Chris Toney and Steve Westfall — broke with their party and joined the 10 Democrats on the committee to approve an amendment to remove these “education savings accounts” from a new iteration of the bill.
These vouchers would only go to parents of nonfull-time public education students to pay for things like religious and secular private school tuition or tutoring.
The vote was 17-8, and all eight opposing the amendment were Republicans.
Five Republicans — Cooper, Dean, Rohrbach, Toney and Westfall — also joined all the Democrats to successfully recommend removing a section saying employees wouldn’t be paid for days missed due to strikes that aren’t made up. The removed section also said extracurriculars must be canceled on days canceled due to strikes.
Again, all opponents of this amendment were Republicans.
But all 15 Republicans on the committee stuck together to defeat two motions by Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, to, with backing from all the other Democrats, reject the whole overhaul bill (Senate Bill 451).
The bill would legalize charter schools in West Virginia but also provide pay raises to public school workers, employ more school support workers, like counselors, social workers and psychologists, and do much more.
Unions are tallying votes from school workers across the state and might decide today on a statewide strike.
All amendments passed by House Education could be reversed at multiple points in the future by delegates who aren’t on House Education.
House Education Chairman Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison, proposed a “strike-and-insert” replacement version of the Senate version, and the committee members finished making amendments to that version Friday.
Among the strike-and-insert version’s major differences from the Senate version: It would limit charter schools statewide to two.
An earlier version of the strike-and-insert suggested these could only be elementaries in Kanawha and Cabell counties, but House Education removed that geographic limitation in a voice vote with a couple of nays heard.
The House Finance Committee could further change the strike-and-insert version. When it leaves that committee, the full House of Delegates has the option of rejecting that version in full and reverting to the Senate version, or making other changes.
If the version the full House passes is different from the Senate version, the two sides must negotiate to agree on a single version.
“We’ve been here a number of hours and I’ve lost count of them, and there’s still an awful lot of things about this bill that I do not understand,” Doyle said in arguing for one of his bill-rejecting motions. The committee had been meeting daily, in morning and afternoon and evening sessions, since Wednesday.
“There are things that I do not like, there are things I think I do not like, there are things I’m not sure about at all, there are things I think I like, but I just don’t know,” Doyle said.
He said another 20 hours wouldn’t help, and it needs a yearlong study.
“There are a number of other places this bill will go after it leaves this committee,” Doyle said. “The final product [might] end up being something that we very much don’t like.”
Delegate Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, said those who voted against Doyle’s motions “will be held liable for the carnage of destroying public education in our great state.”