House GOP looking at what direction to take session

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Ahead of the West Virginia House of Delegates’ special session on education policy, Republican leaders are taking steps to determine the direction they should take.

First, House Majority Whip Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, is polling the 59 Republican delegates to gauge feelings toward the Student Success Act — the sweeping measure with provisions on pay raises, charter schools and teacher strikes — to understand if there is enough support for the bill to pass.

Republican leaders are additionally speaking to Democratic leaders about any legislation they want to introduce.

These actions, announced by House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” come less than two weeks before the House returns to Charleston for its special session on education.

The state Senate this week passed the Student Success Act, which would enact a 5% pay raise for teachers and school service personnel, as well as allow charter schools and punishments for school employees if they go on strike, including being fired.

The Student Success Act has drawn similarities to the education omnibus bill that died during this year’s regular session during a statewide strike because of similar provisions between the two.

Delegate Amy Summers, R-Taylor

When House members return to Charleston, they will split into four select committees responsible for evaluating proposals and recommending further actions.

Summers said members are expected to review the Senate’s measure and determine if Republican lawmakers can begin discussions with the bill as a vehicle.

“If the answer is yes, we’ll place the bill in one of the four subcommittees and the other individual bills in the remain committees and go from there,” she said Thursday.

“If the answer is no, then we have bills drafted to address the various topics of education betterment that will be divided amongst those four committees, and we’ll proceed from there.”

Summers has spoken to House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, about what bills House Democrats would support during the session; Summers noted she and Miley would talk on Thursday about related legislative matters.

Miley said on Wednesday’s “Talkline” he would welcome any “meaningful” education bill, but opposed the Student Success Act because of how it addresses charter schools and strikes.

Summers said she supported the omnibus bill, yet did not think language regarding strikes is necessary. She added she understood why the bill includes the provision.

“What we keep hearing is from parents who are tired of the strike card being played, just like they would be tired if other public employees did that, such as Department of Highways,” she said. “It just causes parents that are taking their children to school to have to possibly use their vacation time. Or if they had a vacation planned at the end of school, now the school year is extended. It’s not impacting those school employees per se, but it’s impacting those families.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, introduced the strike amendment, which also says no county superintendent may close schools in anticipation of a strike, and extracurricular activities would be canceled during a strike.

The House’s special session on education is scheduled for June 17.

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