(Charleston) With education reform still not sorted out, Governor Jim Justice has called a special session for the legislature.
As the legislative session ends, question linger about the fate of education reform and the salaries of state employees, who have yet to see the five percent pay raise as promised. President of the West Virginia Education Association, Dale Lee, said, “We’re disappointed the Senate could not fulfill the promise they made with Governor Justice before the election and then again after the election.”
In a special session called by the Governor, the issues pf education reform and a state employee pay raise may stay bundled. Senate President Mitch Carmichael(R – Jackson said, “The pay raise is a component of that but it’s not an item that should be taken separately.”
If education reform remains the string attached to the pay raises, state employees may be unnerved to know the two sides aren’t any closer on the issues. Del. Mark Dean (R – Mingo) is the Vice-Chair of the House of Delegates Education Committee. He said, “I don’t think that West Virginia has the population to support charter schools or ESAs. That’s why I’m so opposed to it.” Senate President Mitch Carmichael indicated charter schools and ESAs are still on the table for the Senate.
The governor says a recess will give legislators a chance to learn about education from the teachers, but Senate President Mitch Carmichael says it is public perception that will change during the recess. He said, “I think once the public becomes more aware of the current condition of our education system, the methods that can be utilized to improve it that have been proven in other states, there begins to be a groundswell.”
But will hope of a groundswell be enough to bring the two sides closer together? Lee said, “That’s the million dollar question.”
The special session will start on Monday. The first act of business will be to recess so lawmakers can meet with education stakeholders in their district. No word yet on when the recess will end. The pay raise for state employees would need to be finalized by July 1, 2019.