CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates approved a motion that postponed an omnibus education bill indefinitely, essentially killing the bill.
The motion to table the bill passed 53 to 45 with two absences. That elicited an eruption of cheers from teachers who gathered outside the House of Delegates.
Debate over what to do with the bill lasted more than an hour.
Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, offered the motion to table it indefinitely.
“The bill needs to die, and it needs to die today,” Caputo said.
But first delegates had to decide what to do with a separate motion by Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, to table the bill until 4 p.m. Delegates wound up voting down the Summers motion, 45-53-2.
There are 59 Republicans in the House and 41 Democrats. Two Republicans, Moore Capito of Kanawha County and Larry Kump of Berkeley County, were absent today.
A couple of Republican delegates spoke up with criticism of the bill.
Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, objected to the constitutionality of the many aspects of law addressed by the bill. He also expressed concern about the estimated $200 million cost.
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) February 19, 2019
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, a main advocate for the big education bill, expressed disappointment but said he would continue to fight for educational policy changes.
“Unfortunately today the champions of the status quo won,” said Carmichael, R-Jackson. “But that will not stop progress. They’re on the wrong side of history.”
The Republican-led Senate voted Monday to restore up to seven charter schools and 1,000 education savings accounts, which are for students leaving public school for private education.
Carmichael said yesterday the House had indicated there were 52 votes to pass those changes.
“They had a caucus and committed to 52 votes, and I said ‘OK, we’re going to run it,” Carmichael recounted.
But somewhere, somehow that number changed.
“We had an agreement. They had a commitment of 52 votes. If they hadn’t committed, we wouldn’t have run the amendment,” Carmichael said.
“What I’ll say is one’s word is all you have in this building. So you need to honor your word.”
Carmichael also addressed comments by Gov. Jim Justice, a fellow Republican, on the opposite side of the proposed education changes.
“That’s just the way things go with him,” Carmichael said. “He comes out and said, ‘Just pass a clean bill. Just give them a pay raise.’ People don’t want that. People of West Virginia understand that, yes, teachers need more money but our education system needs reform.”
Justice, speaking separately during an afternoon press conference, said he was glad the bill was voted down.
The governor said the Legislature now should consider an individual pay raise bill that he promised months ago.
“The education omnibus bill is dead The bill that is on the floor now is my bill, the bill I sent up,” Justice said.
West Virginia teachers on strike for the second year in a row were gathering and chanting in front of the House of Delegates this morning in opposition to the omnibus education bill. Those chants continued as delegates debated the bill.
“I did not think last year we would be back this year, but we are,” said Ashley Weber, a Kanawha County second grade teacher.
“I thought after last year we would be taken care of a little bit more. We were promised to be taken care of, and we’re still here. I feel like a lot of this was retaliation. I feel like they just are not putting our kids first.”
The bill included a long-promised pay raise for educators bundled with the charter schools, education savings accounts, changes to the tax base affecting county school systems and more.
Weber objected to the process that the omnibus bill has gone through the Legislature. She also has concerns not only about charter schools but also education savings accounts and tenure.
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) February 19, 2019
Becca Williamson, a first grade teacher in Kanawha County, said she objects to provisions like charters and education savings accounts but her view is broader than that.
“A lot of times what’s not in there is just as important as what’s in there,” Williamson said. “I felt like that big omnibus bill was taking our attention away from, maybe, other issues like PEIA.”
She added, “Of course, we’re insulted that we’re not consulted on this as professionals in our field.
“If they had come to us and said ‘We want to provide parents some choices but we also don’t want to harm public education as it is; we want to make sure you all have what you need as well. What do you need?’ Sometimes procedure goes a long way.”
Every county but one in West Virginia canceled school today, the exception being Putnam County.
State Superintendent Steve Paine issued a statement on Monday night calling for a quick resolution.
“I regret that circumstances have led to the announcement of work stoppages in many counties throughout the state,” Paine stated.
“I am working diligently with all parties to advocate for a prompt resolution. Though this is an uncertain and emotional time, we cannot forget that the best interest of students must be our top priority.”