W.Va. Senate leader wants House education bill passed as is

Published: Jun. 20, 2019 at 5:01 PM EDT
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West Virginia's Senate leader says he wants to pass a sweeping House GOP education bill that would allow the state's first charter schools.

Republican Senate President Mitch Carmichael told The Associated Press on Thursday that he's not going to try to amend the proposal when it gets to his chamber.

The House passed the measure late Wednesday. It would allow for a staggered implementation of charter schools, limiting the state to three charters until 2023 then letting three more go up every three years after that.

Carmichael has led the legislative push for charter schools. A similar, wide-ranging bill he sponsored didn't cap the number of charters and sparked massive teacher protests at the Capitol this month.

"We're pleased with it," Carmichael said of the House bill. "We would always want more but we're not going to let perfect be the enemy of the good."

He said he plans to call the Senate back in next week to take up the proposal.

Teachers union leaders and Democrats have opposed efforts to install charters as a move driven by outside interests that will steer money away from public schools.

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, told reporters that the legislature has been ignoring the will of the people.

"It's plain and clear" that lawmakers "didn't want to listen to West Virginians," he said.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice has tweeted support for the bill, which also includes a pay raise for teachers, calling it a "major step toward building new opportunities for our children."

Justice called the special legislative session after lawmakers failed to agree on education measures following a teacher strike during the regular session.

He asked lawmakers to go out and seek input from the public before returning. Public forums on education were held statewide, at the end of which the Department of Education released a report saying 88 percent of people who answered a comment card at the meetings opposed the creation of charters.

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