Lengthy Day in House of Delegates Leads to Bill Passage

CHARLESTON, W.Va (WOAY) – It was a long day at the Capitol that started at 8 a.m and went on into the night, all centered around education reform.

“I got here at 7 a.m. today it’s now 7:35 p.m, so I’ve been here 12 and a half hours. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. I’m pretty angry,” Kanawha County teacher Jay O’Neal said.

A public hearing on the bill was the first thing on the agenda. Many teachers took to the floor to have their voices heard concerning parts of the bill about charter schools and Education Savings Accounts.

“My point being made was we’re having things like charter schools, the ESAs, things like that pushed on us,” Cabell County teacher Amanda Vaughn said. “But the thing is, they’re not doing a lot of research to show how they’re going to implement them, how they’re going to help. They keep saying we’re the only places that doesn’t have it. Well, that doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing for us.”

The House reconvened at 11 to have a third reading and listen to all amendments proposed. Meanwhile, teachers were outside of the chambers and they could be heard from inside. Republicans and Democrats in the House went back and forth for hours on the issues brought up.

“I know when I talk to my colleagues in other states, strong Democratic states, and they ask me, ‘What’s the hot issue in West Virginia?’ And we say we’re trying to get some school choice, some education choice,” Republican Delegate Paul Espinsosa said on the floor. “And they said, ‘Really? You all don’t have that?'”

After 12 hours in session, the House passed the bill 51 to 47. Despite raising their voices, the teachers say they still felt like they weren’t being heard.

“All these representatives and their constituents are speaking out and saying, ‘Hey, we don’t want these things,’ and yet they’re pushing them through anyway,” O’Neal said. “So it makes you wonder who they are really listening to. Is it the lobbyists? Is it these out-of-state groups? Because it’s clearly not their constituents.”

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.