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Scheduling Votes On School Bills

Pop quiz: What is included in the Student Success Act approved last week by the West Virginia Senate? If your answer was limited to charter schools and education savings accounts, you have been napping in class.

Much attention has been devoted to those two aspects of the SSA. But, as we have reported, the bill includes a variety of other provisions that, beyond any reasonable doubt, will improve public schools if they become law.

For example, the bill includes sections that would limit some class sizes beyond current standards for elementary schools. It would give smaller counties more state funding. It would encourage more creativity in public school “innovation zones.” It would make it easier for county boards of education to offer salaries adequate to attract and retain in-demand teachers.

Votes in the Senate on two education bills — the comprehensive SSA and a separate measure on education savings accounts — may lead some West Virginians to believe there is little or no agreement on school improvement between Republicans and Democrats. That is not true.

Most Democrats have serious concerns about savings accounts and the charter school provisions in the SSA. That explains the party-line votes in the Senate. But on most other education-related issues, there is broad bipartisan agreement. Some of the very provisions of the SSA have been proposed in bills introduced by Democrats in the House of Delegates.

Leaders in that chamber have been wise to break education improvement legislation up into several bills, rather than take the Senate’s SSA approach. Work on those measures already has begun, in advance of the House opening a special session on June 17.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, can set the agenda for that session. The wise course would be to schedule action on bills with no charter school or savings account content first. Get them out of the way — approved and on their way to Gov. Jim Justice — before debating or voting on charters and savings accounts. Don’t let disagreements about those issues imperil important improvements in our schools. Don’t let the baby get thrown out with the bath water, in other words.

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