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Legislators need wingsuits to pass education reform bill

The House of Delegates is getting back together today to see if members can agree on education reform. It makes me think of those daredevils in wingsuits. They fly headlong off a cliff, their special “wings” keeping them just barely aloft while they navigate over and through rugged terrain.

The most daring (or crazy) among the wingsuit flyers will even fly through a hole in a rock formation.  One mistake, one false move, one unexpected gust of wind and it’s all over.

Okay, the stakes for the legislators are not life or death, but the point here is that there is not much room for error if they want to pass a bill (or bills).  Here’s how they might just be able to thread that needle:

—Remove the provision inserted by Senate Republicans codifying that teacher strikes are against the law, that striking teachers can be fired and that county school superintendents cannot cancel school because of a strike.

This is a real sore spot with the unions and, as a result, a problem for Democrats and some Republicans who are on the teachers’ side on this one. In addition, common law has already firmly established that teacher strikes are illegal.

—Modify the language in the Senate bill changing the criteria used when deciding which teachers lose their jobs when layoffs are necessary.  The unions view this as undermining their much-valued seniority and, like the strike provision, an attack on their organizations.

—Limit the number of charter schools to a just a few, rather than giving the charter option to any county school board that might want them.  Here’s where it gets tricky.

The unions don’t want the possibility of even one charter school. However, this is also a line in the sand for Senate Republicans. They must get something out of this compromise, or the chances increase that the whole deal falls apart.

Here’s where Governor Jim Justice could really help.  Justice has been on the teachers’ side throughout the debate.  He is also fine with a couple charter schools, but he has been unwilling to advocate for them.

Justice could use some Republican friends in the Legislature.  His support of limited charters would help repair his damaged relationship with Senate Republicans.

This is just one possible scenario, but it is a reasonable one. Granted, there is only the narrowest of openings this week for the wing-suited legislators to make it through.  Only the bravest (or craziest) daredevil delegates and senators will be able to make the leap off the Capitol Dome and glide to a safe legislative landing.

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