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Senate clashes over education bill


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Debate in the West Virginia Senate devolved into a free-for-all Thursday, March 23, as Senators clashed over an education bill.

The legislation, Senate Bill 18, would require the state school board to come up with ACT-style testing for high school students to replace the former Smarter Balance testing system. The bill was offered as part of the Legislature’s ongoing efforts to eliminate any trace of Common Core curriculum.

The bill was on second reading in the Senate on Thursday and open for amendments.

Senate education committee chairman Sen. Kenny Mann, R-Monroe, conceded the bill might no longer be necessary, as the state school board beat the Legislature to dropping Common Core education standards.

But debate got heated after Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, offered an amendment to the bill that would require the Legislature to sign off on any alternative testing standards state education officials decided to adopt.

Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, and several other Democratic senators objected, arguing that lawmakers didn’t have the expertise to make educational decisions. Romano said requiring the Legislature to second-guess school standards flew against the wishes of many Republicans and Gov. Jim Justice to return control of schools to local school systems.

Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, questioned whether the amendment was even constitutional.

Romano offered a further amendment that would require legislative review of home-school testing standards. His proposal prompted Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Upshur, to question whether Romano could offer a floor amendment. Karnes home-schools his children.

Rucker countered that home-school testing standards are already mandated by the state. Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, ruled that Romano’s amendment was allowed under Senate rules, but the amendment was voted down.

Senators then passed Rucker’s amendment on a vote of 19-13, with all 12 Senate Democrats voting against it. They were joined by Mann, who said earlier he did not favor the amendment.

Also Thursday, the Senate passed a bill that would allow the sale of liquor on Sundays, but also give the Legislature the ability to set wholesale tax rates on liquor rather than the state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration. The bill passed 23-10, with no discussion.

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