CHARLESTON – House Speaker Roger Hanshaw has requested a public hearing on the comprehensive education reform bill.
The House Finance Committee hearings for Senate Bill 451 are scheduled for 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Feb. 11 in the House Chamber at the state Capitol. The second hearing was added later to allow teachers to attend.
"We said from the start of our deliberations that we would accept input from all sides in this process, and that includes hearing from our teachers, students, parents and administrators,” Hanshaw (R-Clay) said. “A public hearing will allow our citizens, and all those affected by this bill, the opportunity to have their voices heard.”
Teachers have said they want to be included in discussions about the legislation, which is opposed by teacher unions.
Hanshaw sent a letter Feb. 7 to Education Committee Chairman Danny Hamrick (R-Harrison) and Finance Committee Chairman Eric Householder (R-Berkeley). The bill has been referred to those two committees.
House Rule 84 allows any member to request a public hearing on a bill that is placed on a committee agenda.
“While our Education and Finance committees hear from experts on questions related to this bill, this hearing will allow those on the front lines of our education system to weigh in,” Hanshaw said. “We want to make our education system the best it can be for all involved, and this hearing will provide valuable input on this process.”
The Senate passed the bill Feb. 4 on an 18-16 vote. Hanshaw repeatedly has said the House is "completely committed" to addressing pay and benefits for all state workers and school employees. Another 5 percent pay raise is something promised by Gov. Jim Justice last year when state employees received a raise.
“As we have said repeatedly, improving the compensation and benefits of our state’s teachers, service personnel and public employees so that they are competitive with neighboring states and the private sector is and continues to be an absolute top priority for House leadership this session,” Hanshaw said earlier. “The House remains completely committed to addressing pay and benefits for all state workers and school employees.
“With the final passage of the comprehensive education bill by the Senate, House leadership now has a starting point for our work on this bill. As I said before, we will fully review this bill in a deliberate manner, and will work to build consensus on the best path forward with proposals to improve our state’s education system."
In addition to the raise, the bill also would allow for the creation of charter schools and educational savings accounts that would provide public dollars for private schooling for a certain number of students. It also would allow teachers to save personal days for retirement credit.
Also, the bill would allow counties more leeway to pay teachers for expertise. Students also could enroll in schools across county lines, and counties would be able to raise school levy rates to an established maximum.
The House Education Committee already eliminated two provisions from the Senate bill. One was a clause that would have struck down the entire bill if any part of it were thrown out by the courts. The other was a provision requiring teachers to sign off on union dues annually.
Teacher unions plan to meet Feb. 9 in Flatwoods to discuss the bill and to count votes about possible work actions.