West Virginia House

The West Virginia House of Delegates, which is controlled by Republicans, has just voted to table a Republican bill that would have undermined public schools.

Delegates voted by a margin of 53-45 to table Senate Bill 451, which appeared to be primed to pass out of a conference committee to the desk of Governor Jim Justice (R), who would have signed it. Now that the bill is tabled, lawmakers have just 24 hours to vote on it again before it dies. It’s unknown as of this writing whether or not teachers will remain in Charleston until the bill is completely dead.

The difference-maker was likely a statewide teacher strike in 54 of 55 counties across the state in protest of the bill. Teachers gathered outside the West Virginia House chamber in Charleston, singing John Denver’s “Country Roads.”

Lawmakers in the West Virginia House floated Senate Bill 451 as “comprehensive education reform,” though teachers believed that the bill was in retaliation for their 2018 teacher strike. The bill would have allowed for as many as seven new charter schools in the state, and would have created up to 1,000 “education savings accounts” for parents to send their children to private schools.

However, Cody Thompson, a teacher who is a Democratic member of the West Virginia House, said the bill’s provisions about private and charter schools were loudly denounced by West Virginians working in education, and argued that should be reason enough to kill it.

“I have a problem with passing legislation that directly affects an occupation where people say they don’t want part of that legislation,” Thompson told West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Teachers in West Virginia have gone on their second statewide strike in as many years. Recent strikes in both Denver, Colorado and Los Angeles, California — the first for higher pay and the second for tighter regulation of charter schools — were both successful in that teachers won the bulk of their demands. Teachers in Oakland, California are expected to go on strike later this week.

 

Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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