Contentious education bill brings action from House, Senate

Sen. Bill Hamilton

Late Tuesday afternoon, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice called on teachers to return to work and for the legislature to pass a pay raise bill.

Union officials scheduled a press conference for 7 p.m. Tuesday evening.

West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Paine issued the following statement regarding the work stoppage yesterday afternoon.

“Based on the action taken today by the House of Delegates, SB 451 has been tabled indefinitely. Educator voices were clearly heard. I strongly encourage all county school systems to return to school tomorrow, February 20. I urge educators to respect the process and allow it to work. I understand that there is still concern over what may happen next. Both Governor Justice and many members of the legislature have shown a commitment to listening to the voice of educators and doing what is best for West Virginia students. Additionally, Governor Justice has called for the legislature to consider his stand-alone pay raise bill along with other measures to improve county finances and I am confident they will do so.”

Teachers in 54 of 55 counties took to the picket lines Tuesday morning as part of a work stoppage protesting Senate Bill 451. Later in the day, the West Virginia House of Delegates voted 53-45 to permanently table House Bill 451, though that fate was later suggested to be in question.

The bill could return in some form at some point during the current legislative session, which is approximately half way complete.

Upshur County Delegates split with Carl “Robbie” Martin in favor of tabling the bill indefinitely. Delegates Patrick Martin and Caleb Hanna voted against the motion by Marion County Delegate Mike Caputo to table the bill.

On Monday, the senate voted to approve the bill 18-18 with Republican Senators Bill Hamilton and Kenny Mann, Monroe County, voting with Democrats against the passage of the bill. Senator Greg Boso voted in favor of the bill.

“Sorry, no comment,” said Delegate Carl “Robbie” Martin when contacted for a comment regarding the situation.

Requests for comments from the other respective legislative members were not available as of press time Tuesday evening.

Senator Bill Hamilton has been outspoken in his nonsupport of the bill noting its shortcomings and lack of input from educators within the Mountain State.

In a column seen in The Record Delta earlier this week, Hamilton said “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”

Mitch Carmichael, president of West Virginia Senate issued the following statement on social media yesterday.

“After years of ruining our state’s public education system, the teacher union bosses have finally lost their grip on the Legislature and seemingly have lost their grip on reality. Comprehensive education reform that will improve student performance, provide parental choice, and empower teachers is coming - because parents, taxpayers, and job providers want our broken public education system fixed now. I am confident 

he House of Delegates will do the right thing and pass this compromise bill. Locking our students out of schools because the teacher’s union bosses have lost is an embarrassment for our state.” -Senate President Mitch Carmichael

Dr. Steven, president of the West Virginia Board of Education, issued the following statement yesterday morning before the House voted to table to bill.

 “I regret that circumstances have led to the announcement of work stoppages in many counties throughout the state. 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.  
While SB 451 has followed an unusual path, the legislative process is not complete, and I am hopeful that we can collectively work toward a solution that best benefits our students and respects our teachers, service personnel, parents and citizens of West Virginia. 
Be assured that our county superintendents are working tirelessly to minimize disruption to students and communicate frequently with parents regarding plans impacting school schedules. Each county will make a decision based on the unique needs of its county, keeping the safety and well-being of students as the sole focus.”

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