Thompson: Consensus Reached on 3 School Bills

WEIRTON – A West Virginia legislative work group seeking an accord on eight proposed education reform bills has reached consensus on three of them, West Virginia Speaker of the House Richard Thompson said Tuesday in Weirton.

The work group – consisting of 10 lawmakers and representatives from the state’s teachers unions – has reached agreement on bills pertaining to annual evaluations of teachers, mandatory health screening of students entering public schools and the establishment of teacher empowerment teams, according to Thompson, D-Wayne.

He added the work group is still ironing out legislation pertaining to improving school performance, establishing salary supplements for teachers and principals in schools with high poverty or high minority student populations, creating “charter innovation zone” schools and separate bills pertaining to the the hiring and training of professional personnel in the public schools.

Thompson served as keynote speaker Tuesday for a luncheon of the Downtown Business Association of Weirton at the Millsop Community Center.

“We have reached consensus on three bills, and they are working on a fourth,” he told those present. “That’s half the battle.”

Gov. Joe Manchin is expected to call state lawmakers back to Charleston next week for a special session to address the education bills. The legislative changes are believed necessary if West Virginia is to apply for the next round of federal “Race to the Top” stimulus funds for education.

A special session called last month to address the education reform bills was halted by Manchin after legislators voted against some of the legislation.

“There was no consensus, but I think progress was made,” Thompson said of the last special session. “We talked about things we hadn’t talked about before, and these are now being discussed by the work group.”