Will senators honor promise?

SB 451, also known as the Education Omnibus bill, died in the WV house of delegates on Feb. 20. I think there are some misconceptions about the bill. It started out as a huge bill that did everything from grant a 5 percent pay increase to state police, teachers and school service personnel to create charter schools and educational savings accounts, which could be used for home schooling or private schools.

The money to fund this bill would have to come from the taxpayers of West Virginia. Taxpayer money to fund private schools. The bill made its way from the senate to the house of delegates where it underwent significant changes. Educational Savings Accounts were removed. Charter schools were reduced from an unlimited number in the senate’s version to two pilot schools state wide in low performing school districts with oversight by the local Board of Education in the House version. The house amendment also stipulated that no elected official could profit from any charter school. This is an important provision. The amended version went back to the senate, they added more charter schools, reinserted ESAs and removed the provision that no elected official could profit from charter schools.

Why did they remove that provision? Are the senators writing legislation that will have a financial benefit for them personally?

The senate bill and the senate amendment to the house amendment, allowing elected officials to profit from the creation of charter schools, both passed the senate with all but two (Bill Hamilton, Upshur County and Kenny Mann, Monroe County) Republican senators voting for and all Democratic senators voting against.

The bill was sent back to the house of delegates where 45 of the 51 Republican delegates voted against killing this bill with its provision allowing elected officials to profit from charter schools, all of the Democrats, along with 12 Republicans voted to kill the bill.

On Oct. 2, 2018, one month before the election, Governor Justice, flanked by at least 12 Republican senators committed to providing another 5 percent pay increase to state police, teachers and school service personnel. That “clean” pay raise bill is now in the senate. Will those senators remember their commitment?

David Fleming

St. Marys

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