We are a little past the half way mark of the current legislative session, which has been consumed by the Omnibus Education Bill (Senate Bill 451).
There were two hearings last Monday on SB 451; one at 8 a.m. and the other at 5:30 p.m. I attended the morning hearing, but due to schedule conflicts, did not attend the afternoon hearing.
We had some heartfelt and relevant testimony from superintendents, principals, teachers and others. When one rises early, drives 3 ½ hours to be heard and only receives 70 seconds to make his or her points, some would say it was fruitless to even try.
Nevertheless, our statewide education communities, determined to defend public education, showed up in great numbers prepared to do just that.
With due respect toward my fellow colleagues in the Senate, it is disappointing to myself and many others throughout the state that the crafters of this enormous education bill did not seek the input from our West Virginia educators, but instead sought most input from out-of-state sources.
I did not support the bill as I felt there were too many objects in the bill which could make the bill unconstitutional in addition to several that I have yet to see verifiable statistics on the benefits outweighing the detriments to our public schools (charter schools and ESA’s for example).
In the past, I have witnessed amendments made to bills that were ruled by the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate to not be germane to the bill. I believe this bill should have been divided into separate parts and each item debated on its own merits.
Now that the House of Delegates has passed SB 451 back to us we will have to wait and see what Senate leadership has decided to do with the bill as it comes back to the Senate.
The House of Delegates made the following amendments to the bill:
- $1,000 year-end bonus if not absent more than four days (teachers and service workers)
- Charter schools pilot capped at two
- No Education Savings Accounts
- No paycheck protection
- No non-severability clause
- RIF decisions on qualifications, evaluations and seniority set at hiring
- County administrators not at will employees
- Law enforcement officer at each school
- Paid during work stoppage; can have extracurricular activities
- Five million dollars allocated for Innovation Zones
Some of these House amendments have high dollar fiscal implications. We should examine those carefully before making a decision to concur.
As always I appreciate the letters, emails and calls that I receive on bills that are of interest to you. When you are in Charleston, please stop in for a visit so that we can discuss the issues: State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. East, Room W-223.
My office phone number is 304-357-7906 or you may call my home at 304-472-1966.
Senator Bill Hamilton, 11th Senate District