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Zombie Education Bill Refuses to Die: Special session has no end in sight
It’s hard to know where to begin to unravel the latest appearance of the Zombie Education Deform Bill. Back from the grave of the regular 2019 legislative session, it regained life last month when Senate President Mitch Charmichael, resurrected it – much in the same form as the original, but with even harsher slaps at teacher strikes and organized labor.
This special session is also unlike any other I’ve seen. Usually, the governor calls the shots and tells them when to convene. In this case he left it open-ended and legislative leadership took it right out of his hands when they immediately convened the session at 12:01 AM on March 10th the minute after they adjourned the regular session. Now the Senate President and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw have control of the timing of all subsequent special session meetings.
This week’s actions began on Monday morning. Teachers (and students!) once again filled the Capitol and showed their displeasure with being ignored and having the majority party trying again to shove through charter schools and ESAs (tax money going to private schooling).
One would think that the House and Senate would have had agreed to a plan before showing up in a special session to spend our tax dollars. But it seems like they couldn’t even agree when to show up. It also is apparent they didn’t agree on what kind of reform they wanted. The House totally ignored the Senate’s Zombie Bill and had their Select Committee C breath life into one of their own. This is what the House will have a public hearing on tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8 AM.
Action: Call your Delegates (before the 11 AM floor session, if possible) and leave them a message to “vote NO” on charter schools and other attempts to privatize our public education system!
Tip: If you can’t make it in person for the public hearing or floor sessions, you can watch on the wvlegislature.gov page (just click on House; then scroll down to audio/video to tune in). Also, blow by blow actions on the floor of both chambers are recorded on the @WVHouse and @WVSenate Twitter feeds. Keep an eye on your Delegates and Senators, and let them know you’re watching!
HB 206 is a somewhat different take on education reform, it only allows 10 charters instead of the unlimited number in the Senate’s version. It does away with firing teachers who go on strike and preventing county school boards from closing schools ahead of a work stoppage. It’s still a zombie that the vast majority of those who showed up for the numerous education town halls said they didn’t want. It has numerous amendments pending from both sides, so it may look much different if passed than it does this evening.
If passed by the House tomorrow, HB 206 will then be reported to the Senate (just like the regular session drama), and then we’ll see if they repeat their earlier gambit of gutting the House version and reinserting their language. What this means is that the drama will continue right through West Virginia Day on Thursday and into Friday. If the Senate makes any changes it then goes back to the House for approval, or not. It’s beginning to look like a much longer session than legislators were told by leadership to expect.
Meanwhile, this gives us― parents, grandparents, teachers, and students ― more time to call, write, or even show up to give our representatives our thoughts on this critical issue. Keep those calls and emails coming!
While the Zombie Education Bill gets all the attention, the legislature is also busy doling out “supplemental appropriations” due to the increase in revenue (sometimes a good thing). DHHR, Highways, and Arts & Culture (including public broadcasting, we hope!) should be getting a boost from these bills.
Also, many bills the governor vetoed for “technical” reasons are being reworked and passed. Some of these aren’t so good. One especially bad one is HB 144 which the WV Environmental Council sent out an alert about. Basically, it lets the state Development Office “approve” industrial utility projects even before there is any industry wanting to locate at a target location. This is exactly why we have a PSC (Public Service Commission) – to make sure utilities only build what is needed. Guess who’ll get to pay for these expensive build outs? You and me and every other ratepayer in the state. While you’re making those calls on education reform, add HB 144 to your NO list.
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