CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — UPDATE, 12:56 p.m.
The pay raise bill for State Police, teachers and school service personnel passed the West Virginia House of Delegates Friday and now heads to the Senate where it faces an uncertain future.
House members OK’d the bill on the third and final reading. The measure would give an average pay raise of 5 percent. Other state workers' pay raises would be handled in the budget.
The bill passed 89 to 8.
Earlier in the morning, a public hearing was held in House chambers, where speaker after speaker spoke in support and in opposition to the bill.
The pay raise measure is billed as the “clean” bill by supporters because it does not have the controversial provisions such as public charter schools and education savings accounts that led to a two-day statewide education strike.
House members previously killed Senate Bill 451, the omnibus bill that featured some of the features that were so vehemently opposed by striking school workers.
It is unclear how the bill will fare in the Senate, where some of the members, including Senate President Mitch Carmichael, have said previously that simply a pay raise just encourages the status quo in a state that scores poorly in national educational rankings.
UPDATE, 12:52 p.m.
Del Mark Dean-R-Mingo, who is a school principal, said teachers did not strike this year and last year specifically over a pay raise. He said without competitive benefits, however, it will be difficult to be able to recruit and retain teachers.
UPDATE, 12:37 p.m.
West Virginia lawmakers are debating the pay raise bill for State Police, teachers and school service personnel.
Del. Tom Bibby, R-Berkeley, said he was torn about what to do about the bill, but he said he would have to be a "no" vote. He said he didn’t understand why State Police were included in the bill. He wondered if there could be two separate bills – one that would focus on school employees and one that would focus on State Police.
Bibby said he would give a 10 percent raise to State Police, but he would not support a raise for school employees.
“We are going to give a pay raise to people who walked off the job,” Bibby said.
Bibby said taxpayers, parents, who had to juggle child care during the strike did not have a voice in the Legislature like the unions do, and lawmakers are their voice.
Del. Terry Waxman, R-Harrison, said she would be voting against the measure because of all that was lost in the previous education bill.
Del. Mike Pushkin-D-Kanawha, reminded lawmakers about the promise Gov. Jim Justice made on the pay raise.
“I’m also for keeping promises, and a promise that was made for people who really didn’t ask for it,” Pushkin said.
Del. Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, asked about the total cost of the bill, and was told it was $69 million for State Police, teachers and school service personnel. The overall cost is $105 million when other state employee raises, which would be handled in the budget, are taken into account. The state is expecting a surplus of more than $180 million.
“I’ve got a little bit of heartburn on this. It’s a difficult decision to make. I’ve got a lot of excellent teachers back home,” he said.
McGeehan said he has some problems with the bill. He said he does not believe the state’s surpluses are sustainable and revenues will have a crash coming in a few years. He said if the state locks into having too many expenses, then it will be in a difficult situation.
UPDATE, 9:23 a.m.
After a public hearing when supporters and opponents gave their thoughts on the pay raise bill, the West Virginia House of Delegates is scheduled to have the third and final reading of the bill.
UPDATE, 8:33 a.m.
Speaker after speaker stepped to the podium Friday to speak for and against a pay raise bill for State Police, teachers and school service personnel in West Virginia.
“Thank you for finding the grit to save our school children and public schools from masquerading outsiders,” said Jenny Santilli, a public school teacher, at a public hearing in the West Virginia House of Delegates chamber.
A parent, Tiffany Steele, said with the past strikes she “supports our teachers 1,000 percent.” She said she has been handed time and time again debit cards from teachers to buy supplies and even coats for students.
Steele said teachers spend time on weekends working on lesson plans. She said a lot of teachers spend time after school when parents fail to pick them up.
“They are doing more than just teaching our kids,” she said.
One speaker, who identified herself as a “home schooler,” she said she believes State Police should be the only ones who get a raise in the bill, not the teachers and school service personnel who went on strike.
“Why should we approve a raise for those who held our students hostage?” she said. “We should not be rewarding a strike to give them a raise.”
A retired administrative assistant, mother and grandmother said the state education system is scoring 48th nationally, and students can’t receive a good education when the unions are controlling things.
“Please no to the pay raise until we start getting better scores,” she said.
Barry Holstein also spoke in opposition to House Bill 2730.
“The fact that some of us support educational choice doesn’t mean we are anti-teacher,” Holstein said. “The fact that we support fiscal responsibility does not mean we are anti-teacher.”
Joseph Cohen, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, spoke in support of the bill. He said his kids go to Piedmont Elementary School in Charleston, a Title 1 school with some kids who live in homeless shelters, and the school is ranked near the bottom in the state academically.
Cohen said the school, however, has amazing staff members who serve students with challenges.
"Piedmont is not failing at all," he said.
One Cabell County mother said she is a product of public schools and questioned why the bill was even being debated.
“We have amazing teachers,” she said. “Public education has not failed. Legislation has failed.”
Jessi Troyan of the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy questioned what the state would be receiving for the $67 million, the cost under the bill for State Police, teachers and school service personnel pay raises. She said West Virginians are being given false promises for marginal changes.
Melody Potter, chairwoman of the state Republican Party, spoke in opposition to the raise. Potter said the only ones to benefit from a pay raise would be the unions.
“I’m opposed to the pay raise at this time,” Potter said. “Our choices have been taken away from us.”
Timothy Woodward, the superintendent for the Hancock County school system, said school employees did not ask for the raise; he said the pay hikes were promised by Gov. Jim Justice. He pointed out that when it comes to educating children in poverty, West Virginia is No. 2 in the nation.
Another county school superintendent, Robin Daquilante, spoke in support of the pay raise, citing figures she said show that the average teacher salary in the United States is more than $58,000 while the average teacher salary in West Virginia is more than $45,000. She said the state is 46th in average pay, with a starting salary just shy of $35,000.
“Is it any wonder we have a shortage of 1,000 teachers in West Virginia?” Daquilante said.
Community members have an opportunity to voice their opinions at a public hearing Friday about a pay raise bill for West Virginia State Police, teachers and school service personnel.
On Thursday, the House quickly advanced the pay raise bill on second reading with no amendments. A third and final vote from the House could come after the public hearing.
The move is significant as the “clean” version of the bill – as described by supporters – comes after the House previously killed Senate Bill 451, an education reform bill that led to a two-day, statewide education strike that ended Wednesday.
Under the pay raise bill, an average increase of 5 percent would go to State Police, teachers and school service personnel. A raise for other state employees would be handled in the budget bill.
If approved by the House, the bill would go to the Senate, where it could face an uncertain future. Senate leaders had pushed for a comprehensive education reform bill, saying that a pay raise only preserves the status quo and does not fix the education system’s problems.
Union leaders who represent school employees in the state said school employees could go on strike again if the Senate adds lots of amendments, such as public charter schools and education savings accounts, that they oppose.