West Virginia House has second reading of education bill


    The West Virginia House of Delegates meets for a second reading Tuesday of the education bill. (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)

    UPDATE 8:38 p.m.

    The House has come back into session after a 15 minute recess. Members voted 45-49 to reject an amendment to wipe out charter schools.

    UPDATE 8:16 p.m.

    The West Virginia House of Delegates has rejected an amendment that called for up to twenty charter schools with an option for the School for the Deaf and Blind to convert to a charter school if it chooses to do so.

    The House will recess for 15 minutes.

    UPDATE, 6:40 p.m.

    The West Virginia House of Delegates has rejected an amendment that called for up to five charter schools with an option for the School for the Deaf and Blind to convert to a charter school if it chooses to do so.

    The amendment which was introduced by Del. Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson was rejected 59-40.

    The amendment mirrors what the Senate Finance Committee wanted on charter schools but did not approve due to procedural issues.

    Espinosa said the amendment calls for up to five charter schools with an option for the School for the Deaf and Blind to convert to a charter school if it chooses to do so.

    The version passed by the House Education and Finance Committees would cap the number of charter schools at two.



    UPDATE, 5:20 p.m.

    Del. Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, now introducing an amendment that mirrors what the Senate Finance Committee wanted on charter schools but did not approve due to procedural issues.

    Espinosa said the amendment calls for up to five charter schools with an option for the School for the Deaf and Blind to convert to a charter school if it chooses to do so.

    The Jefferson County lawmaker said it also would make it clear the authorizer of the charter schools would be county school boards, which could defer to a state commission.

    Espinosa said it would be a very modest option, but would be a meaningful option that would give parents a choice.

    The version passed by the House Education and Finance Committees would cap the number of charter schools at two.

    John Doyle, R-Jefferson, said he has seen no big outcry by the public for charter schools in the state. He said he opposed the amendment.

    “In my mind, a pilot program would be one,” Doyle said. “The Education Committee, which I happen to be on stretched it to two.”



    UPDATE, 5:07 p.m.

    The amendment to cap school superintendent salaries at $130,000 was rejected.


    UPDATE, 5:02 p.m.

    Delegates are now discussing an amendment by Del. Joe Jeffries, R-Putnam, that would put a cap on school superintendent salaries at $130,000. He said it would affect 16 counties in the state that have superintendents who make more than that salary, including Kanawha and Putnam.

    “Our governor from the entire state only makes $150,000. I don’t believe any county superintendent could negate making those funds,” Jeffries said.

    Del. Jason Barrett, D-Berkeley, disagreed with the amendment.

    “I would argue our superintendent puts in a lot more work than the governor,” Barrett said.

    Del. Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, disagreed with the amendment. He said Kanawha County has a very large school district, and it has an experienced superintendent that handles complex issues.

    “I think it’s a very bad amendment,” Rowe said. “It takes local control away.”


    UPDATE, 4:21 p.m.

    An amendment has been adopted that would mandate state funding for a law enforcement officer at each public school in West Virginia after much debate.

    A motion passed for Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, to upload a revised version of the amendment which would mandate state funding for a law enforcement officer to schools during school hours.

    The updated amendment would give an allowance to provide for one law enforcement officer per public school, costing $40.5 million rather than $125 million.

    “This is an investment for the safety of our kids and frankly if we get this going, they’re going to be protected,” Sponaugle said.

    The amendment passed, 82-17.

    Coverage of the West Virginia House meeting can be viewed in the media player below:



    UPDATE, 4 p.m.

    Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton sponsored an amendment to the House proposed strike-and-insert that would mandate state funding for a law enforcement officer to schools during school hours. He said he spoke with students who were concerned for safety measures at schools.

    “It takes the funding formula so the effort is to put a law enforcement officer in every school in the state of West Virginia,” Sponaugle said.

    Amy Summers, R-Taylor, said she spoke with students who were concerned with school security but were also concerned having an officer at the school would not be effective. Those students mentioned other measures like better doors and entrance security might be more effective.

    One lawmaker suggested having this amendment as a separate bill completely, but Sponaugle mentioned the bill is an omnibus bill and already contains many bills in one.

    “If we’re going to do reform and if we’re going to do 20-something bills in one bill, it’s going to go in here,” Sponaugle said.

    Joe Canestraro, D-Marshall, said the amendment would also increase gatekeepers for mental health in the schools.

    The amendment calls for 4.7 officers per 1,000 students. Several delegates suggested this was too many and could get costly for the state. Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, said the suggested formula would cost the state about $125 million.

    Ed Evans, D-McDowell, suggested using federal grants to help fund the officers.


    UPDATE, 3 p.m.

    The House has reconvened. An amendment to allow each county school board to provide counseling services for each person in the public schools based on the American School Counselor Association’s suggested guidelines as funds are available was rejected.

    Sponsor of the amendment, Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, said the guidelines include a 250 to 1 student to one counselor ratio.

    The amendment failed, 46-50.

    “Here in West Virginia, in some places we have a 700 or 800 to 1 student counselor ratio,” Skaff said.


    UPDATE, 2:24 p.m.

    A motion was made to reconsider the vote to remove the language regarding levies and the motion was passed. Re-adoption of the amendment was rejected 47-52.

    If the reconsidered amendment was readopted, it would have removed the right of counties to vote to raise their regular levy to the cap, Dianna Graves, R-Kanawha, said.

    “(If this passes,) the county commission without a vote from the people, can raise their taxes all they want,” Graves said. “This decision belongs in the hands of the voters, not in this chamber right here and certainly not in the chamber of those across the way.”

    Daniel Linville, R-Cabell, urged the House to adopt the amendment.

    "Without a vote of the people, this could raise everyone's taxes considerably," Linville said. "I urge this body not to raise everyone's taxes."

    The full first part of the House meeting Wednesday can be viewed below.



    UPDATE, 1:40 p.m.

    An amendment that would increase a school personnel attendance incentive from $500 to $1,000 was adopted, 65-33.

    One of the arguments made by lawmakers in support of the amendment was that with a greater incentive for teachers and workers who miss less than four days, money would be saved on substitute personnel. Others said the $500 alone is an incentive for them doing the work that they should already be doing.

    Andrew Robinson, D-Kanawha, said this incentive is one of the only proven things in the whole education reform bill.

    “In this bill, we’re talking about millions of dollars going to mental health,” Robinson said. “You know what’s good for a child is consistency.”

    Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, one of the sponsors of the amendment, said the education reform bill should be about the student. This amendment, he said, would save around $26 million a year.

    “You want to produce the future leaders of tomorrow,” Skaff said. “Let’s pay substitutes $86 million in various fieldsThat’s not best for them.”


    UPDATE, 1:10 p.m.

    Delegates are discussing at length an amendment to boost the bonus for school employees who use four or fewer personal days from $500 to $1,000.

    Several lawmakers spoke out in favor of the proposal.

    “Anything we can do to keep the teacher in that classroom,” Del. Ed Evans, D-McDowell said.

    Del. Tom Fast, R-Fayette, opposed the amendment, saying that he believed that $500 was a good start.

    Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, said she thought it was a good incentive to keep teachers. She said millennials value their time off, so the incentive has to be enough to make it worth it.

    Del. S. Marshall Wilson, R-Berkeley, opposed the amendment.

    “What is expected from our employees is that they show up for their job,” Wilson said. “I would submit that showing up for work in doing your job is the minimal and not a bonus.”

    Del. Paul Epinosa, R-Jefferson, cited a survey which said 16 different school districts in the state have been using an incentive to decrease absenteeism by school employees. He said the results are mixed.

    Epinosa said Cabell County’s was inconclusive, Greenbrier County responded it has been effective, while Harrison County indicated the incentive had been offered for so long it was difficult to measure.

    The Jefferson County delegate said he recommended rejection of the amendment.

    Del. Jim Butler, R-Mason, said delegates had to keep in mind taxpayers and couldn't get in a bidding war over $500 and $1,000. He urged keeping the incentive to $500.

    "It's very tempting to come in here and hand out money to teachers and public employees," Butler said. "We have to remember the people who are paying for this is the taxpayers of the state."

    Meanwhile, Del. Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, pointed out that there is $6 million being spent each year on substitute teachers in the state. She spoke in favor of the amendment.

    "I think students are best served by their regular teachers," Fleischauer said.


    UPDATE, 12:45 p.m.

    Education Chair Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison, went through the House education committee version of the bill, which is the strike-and-insert amendment that was last in the finance committee.

    More than 30 secondary amendments were submitted by Wednesday morning. Secondary amendments allow members to consider perfections to each of the various sections of the primary amendment or allow them to strike out certain parts of the amendment, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw explained.

    Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, submitted an amendment that would require the state board of education to conduct an independent study to look at how education is funded in West Virginia and report it back to the legislature.

    “We spend $2 billion on education. It’s the single largest item that’s in our budget,” Bates said. “There has never been a comprehensive, objective, non-partisan study of how we fund education in West Virginia. We’ve never done it.”

    The study would cost about $150,000.

    “I think it’s responsible and something that this legislature must do if we were to take our effort to reform education in our state seriously,” Bates said.

    The amendment failed, 49-50.

    Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, submitted an amendment to allow improvement of instructional programs, instructional technology, dual credit, advanced placement, teacher and leader induction and professional growth and allocations of growth in local shares. The amendment was unanimously adopted.

    Terri Sypolt, R-Preston, moved to amend a modification of the same section of the bill which would allow voters to vote on the regular levy rates at a general election. Excess levies needed during an off-year could still be voted on.

    Sypolt's amendment was adopted, 94-5.

    Daniel Linville, R-Cabell, made an amendment to strike the section of the bill which addresses the school board levy rate.

    “We don’t need new taxes,” Linville said.

    The amendment was adopted, 50-49.


    ORIGINAL STORY

    The West Virginia House of Delegates is expected to have second reading Wednesday of the education reform bill when amendments to the measure could be offered.

    Below in the middle column is option the House will be considering.

    After much wrangling, the House Finance Committee Tuesday morning approved the House Education Committee’s version of the bill.

    The House Finance Committee worked late into the night, presenting its changes to Senate Bill 451. Those changes overwrote what the House Education Committee passed last week, increasing the number of charter schools and adding education savings accounts back in for special need students.

    Those changes meant no more amendments could be added in the committee. Some delegates said that made the hours of public testimony on the omnibus education bill a waste of everyone's time.

    House Speaker Roger Hanshaw said the changes made in finance failed by just one vote and were tossed aside. That sent the House education strike and insert version of the bill to the House floor Tuesday afternoon, which included no education savings accounts and only two charter schools allowed.

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