Republican leaders in the West Virginia Senate have rolled out their latest plan for education reform. The 144-page bill, dubbed the “Student Success Act”, was released Friday afternoon by Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson.
“This bill boldly incorporates many suggestions and recommendations from the education forums that were held throughout the state,” Carmichael said in a Friday statement. “It reflects the input of teachers, students, and parents. There is widespread recognition that our state’s education system can be improved.”
The education reform measure proposes many of the same ideas included in Senate Bill 451, which failed earlier this year during the regular legislative session. Among those proposals are increased pay for teachers and school service personnel, withholding school employee pay during a strike or work stoppage and the estiablishment of charter schools.
Teachers, school service personnel and the leaders of their unions took issue with charter schools and other proposals included in Senate Bill 451, ultimately striking for two days in February.
New proposals include a digital literacy and internet safety pilot project, mental health training for all teachers and requiring county boards to establish an open enrollment policy.
Carmichael’s latest offering, however, omits education savings accounts -- one of the controversial proposals that was included in the upper chamber’s versions of Senate Bill 451.
Earlier this week, minority Democrats in the Senate offered a series of eight bills that are closely based on the findings of a recent report from the West Virginia Department of Education.
Those bills, introduced Monday during lawmakers’ one-day return to Charleston as part of a special session, include separate proposals for teacher and service personnel salary increases, increased mental health services for students, more focus on technical and vocational training.
“We are grateful for the outstanding suggestions from the minority caucus, and we look forward to working with all parties to advance our shared goal of creating the best education system in America,” Carmichael said Friday in reference to the Democrats’ offerings.
Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, responded to Carmichael's release of the "Student Success Act by thanking the majority party for considering their series of bills.
“We are encouraged to see the Senate leadership embrace much of our proposed legislation,” Prezioso said. “We know that our ideas will work, and we are happy they agree. We’re very glad to have some common ground to move forward on.”
Prezioso said he and the Senate Democratic caucus are looking forward to reviewing Carmichael's proposal in its entirety before making further decisions.
Gov. Jim Justice also released a statement Friday commending Carmichael and the rollout of the “Student Success Act.”
"I applaud the state Senate for making a significant move in attempting to create a bipartisan approach to education betterment,”Justice said. “I look forward to continuing to work with all members of the Legislature, the state School Board, and with all citizens of West Virginia in taking steps to make our education system better for students in the Mountain State."
Contacted Friday afternoon for comment on the “Student Success Act,” West Virginia Education Association president Dale Lee said he had not yet had time to review it.
Carmichael and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, have yet to announce when they will call lawmakers back to Charleston to address education, although a Senate spokeswoman said Carmichael told members of his chamber he's targeting a return on June 1.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that charter schools would be limited to four. In fact, public higher education institutions would be limited to authorizing four charter schools. County school boards would not be limited in the number of charter schools they could authorize.