West Virginia Senate to Hold Weekend Session for Education Bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (CN) – The Republican leader of the West Virginia Senate is once again angering teachers in the Mountain State by calling for a special legislative session on Saturday in an attempt to pass a bill that would allow for an unlimited amount of charter schools.

West Virginia teachers gathered at Capital High School in Charleston on Feb. 19, 2019, to protest an education bill. (Kenny Kemp/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, wants state lawmakers to meet the day after schools close in Kanawha County, where the gold-domed state capitol building stands, to consider an omnibus bill that is similar to another measure that caused teachers to strike en mass in February.

The bill introduced by Carmichael is called the Student Success Act. It includes block grants and additional pay for teachers in high demand fields, but it also includes a provision allowing an unlimited amount of charter schools to open in the state. The previous bill that was halted by the two-day strike in February would have allowed only eight charter schools to be opened.

Charter schools have been hotly contested in West Virginia and have seen very little support from teachers’ groups.

Another hot-button issue that riled up teachers earlier this year was education savings accounts, or ESAs, which would offer households with an annual income of less than $150,000 the option to apply for assistance with private school tuition or homeschooling.

ESAs are not included in the Student Success Act but Carmichael has said he will try to pass a separate bill Saturday including them.

Roger Hanshaw, the Republican speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates, has said delegates will reconvene for their special session on June 17, when they decide whether to approve any measures the Senate passes on Saturday.

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