CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than one day will be necessary to pass an omnibus education bill.

Senators voted 18-15 with one absence against a motion to suspend a constitutional rule requiring bills to be read on three separate days.

The Senate majority had hoped to pass a broad-ranging bill on one day, Saturday. But without that vote, it will take at least two more days to do so.

“Nevertheless, if one wants to come here and be an obstructionist, they can be an obstructionist,” said Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson. “We will continue the march toward student success in West Virginia.”

The Senate will reconvene at 2 p.m. Sunday.

A separate bill establishing education savings accounts also did not have enough votes to move forward immediately.

A crowd of teachers watched from the galleries above the Senate while more teachers chanted outside the chamber.

West Virginia teachers have gone on strike two years in a row over education issues. School is now out for the year, and the teachers showed up at the Capitol anyway.

“There are aspects of the bill that are very good, but they’re bundled in with aspects that are very bad,” said Beverly Hartley, a special education teacher in Ripley, who is especially opposed to establishing charter schools.

Hartley said she has been at the Capitol over and over during the education policy disputes of the past couple of years.

This time, teachers and senators will be here three days in a row.

Suspending rules would have required a four fifths majority vote. Eight Democrats would have had to have joined all 20 Republicans if all senators had been present.

But all the Democrats plus Republicans Kenny Mann and Bill Hamilton voted against suspending the rules. Senator Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, was not present.

Democrats made speeches to indicate two concerns.

One was with a component of the bill allowing an unlimited number of charter schools to be authorized by county school boards, the state school board or higher education institutions.

Another was bundling a variety of education policies into one bill. Several Democrats said they would be for many aspects of the bill if it were broken into several separate bills.

John Unger

“This bill is a box at a yard sale with a couple of good items, and the rest is junk,” said Senator John Unger, D-Berkeley, who contends the omnibus bill violates a single object rule.

The bill includes a variety of proposed changes to the education system, including pay raises, charter schools, increased support personnel for schools, open enrollment, incentives to fill in-demand positions and financial support for small or struggling counties.

Republicans countered that the elements of the bill work together.

Greg Boso

“Each part of this bill has to be looked at comprehensively,” said Senator Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, who compared the bill to a construction project with elements that need to work seamlessly.

There were some changes to the bill on Friday, the result of negotiations between the Senate Republicans and Democrats.

One of the most significant was the removal of language explicitly forbidding pay during strikes or work stoppages.

Also, there have been concerns about higher education institutions establishing charter schools. This continues to allow that, but makes it clear that a higher education institution can’t apply to establish a charter school and also authorize the same charter.

The changes do not limit the number of charters possible.

The House of Delegates plans a different approach.

Speaker Roger Hanshaw sent word to delegates that the House will reconvene at 8:30 a.m. June 17, which coincides with regularly-scheduled interim meetings.

The House has broken up into four special committees, and intends to deliberate over individual bills. Hanshaw’s direction includes “any proposals that may be passed by the state Senate by that time.”

An omnibus education bill dominated discussion during the regular session of the Legislature.

This all started when Gov. Jim Justice and members of the Republican majority promised a pay raise for educators last October.

Paul Hardesty

During the regular session, the majority in the Senate then rolled the pay raise into an omnibus bill with other education issues, including some that were controversial. The House eventually tabled the bill.

“I wish we could just tear this bill apart,” said Senator Paul Hardesty, D-Logan, adding that he says he probably supports 80 percent of it. “But this was the same script that was forced down our throats earlier this year.”

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