Common Core, Home Schooling, & Tensions Over Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015 in House

Feb 25, 2015

House Education Committee
Credit Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In the House Wednesday, the Education committee considered a bill that would repeal the common core standards in West Virginia schools. It passed with little debate, but received four amendments to adjust some technicalities and add new provisions to teacher organizations. It now heads to the floor for its consideration. But it was a bill relating to home schooling that brought some discussion among the delegates.

House Bill 2793 contains many provisions relating to home schooling. Among them, it removes the requirement that the person providing the home schooling instruction have a high school diploma; and it permits a parent to administer the required nationally normed standardized test.

Delegate Denise Campbell of Randolph County expressed some concern with the removal of this provision, and questioned who would monitor the tests if parents were allowed to administer them.

Mike Donnelly is an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association as well as a father of children who are home schooled. He addressed Campbell’s concern.

“The purpose of education is to help a child to attain the level of achievement that they’re capable of attaining, and a standardized test doesn’t really do that," Donnelly noted, "So wherever you’ve got home school parents who have the ability to choose other approaches to assess their child, they’re gonna tend not to use that standardized test, because they want feedback that’s gonna be illustrative and instructed to them, so they’re going to ask a certified teacher, can you help me out here, what are you seeing here?”

During the floor session, another bill relating to home schooling was up for passage.

Delegate Amanda Pasdon, the House Education Chair, spoke on behalf of House Bill 2674.

“This bill allows home school students qualify for the PROMISE scholarship without taking the GED," Pasdon explained, "It essentially levels the playing field. Home school students will be subject to the same standards as students who attend public or private high schools. I urge passage.”

House Bill 2674 passed 97 to 1. The one nay vote came from Delegate Dana Lynch, a Democrat from Webster County.

Another seven bills were up for passage, but all of them passed without any debate.

In the house, the part of the floor session that allows remarks by members have turned tense on many days and Wednesday was one of them. 

Senate Bill 357, the Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015 was on first reading, not at the debate stage. But fresh from his angry speech in the Government Organization Committee about prevailing wage, Delegate Mike Caputo of Marion County addressed a set of articles he’d sent to all the delegates. The articles referenced multiple mine disasters that happened in recent years, and Caputo called the bill anything but about mine safety.

“There’s only a few of us in here ever been in a coal mine, and some of us have different views on this, and I respect that, but I’m telling you when you’re moving a major piece of equipment in a mine under extreme conditions anything can happen whether you have a trolley wire or whether you don’t. And when coal miners are in by that move, if that move catches on fire, you can have all the transportation equipment you want, you can have all the communication equipment you want, you can have all the rescue equipment you want, that smoke’s gonna get‘em. And you’re gonna be casting a vote tomorrow, an amendment, that I’m going to introduce to put this law back the way it was and the way it should be. So please, read this. Read this. Every coal company that testified to change that law, not once talked about health and safety, they talked about increasing profits, and I will close by saying, the most important thing, the most important thing to ever come out of a coal mine, is the coal miner.” - Delegate Mike Caputo

Delegate Randy Smith of Preston County was outraged by Caputo’s statements.

“I don’t sit behind a desk everyday making decisions. The men I work with don’t pay me to go and sit behind desks. I go underground every day. I’m in these conditions. I know what I’m talking about, and I’m here to tell you that I take offense to being my character attacked on social media, in the newspaper, from colleagues in this chamber. The bottom line is, when it’s said and done, I’m going to go back underground with those men, and anybody that thinks that I would pass a bill to put someone’s life in danger, and put my life in danger, all I can say is it saddens my heart to think that they would think I would be that low. This bill here, this situation that was just, he was just talking about, this situation this bill addresses, if it’s energized trolley wire, you come out by, it’s as simple as that. That doesn’t change, that’s what this law here was made, that’s what brought this law on was energized trolley wire that caused the fire, and it keeps that in place, but why should we stay in 1972? I would say within the next five years, there will be no, no trolley wire in the coal mines anywhere.” - Delegate Randy Smith

Senate Bill 357 will be on second reading, the amendment stage, Thursday.