First Senate panel approves charter school bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A controversial charter school bill that was subjected to more than three hours of debate on Tuesday has finally been passed through a Senate Education Committee.

Meeting five times over the last two days, including three separate occasions on Tuesday, the committee approved numerous amendments to Senate Bill 14, which establishes a pathway for the creation of charter schools in West Virginia.

Originally drafted as a 21-page document, the bill expanded to a 56-page committee substitute in the two-plus weeks the issue was discussed in the committee.

While there were several amendments brought forth on Tuesday, including one advanced by two Democrats pertaining to the enrollment process, and even more amendments and questions members of the minority party said they intended to bring forth, the committee ultimately passed the latest version of the bill.

Frustrations boiled over when the education committee met during its third meeting.

Sens. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, and John Unger, D-Berkeley, made colorful pleas to add an amendment after voicing concern about the enrollment process for charter schools. Until it was amended, the bill would have required parents to opt in to a lottery system, which would take place if there are more students interested in attending a school than seats available.

Romano’s amendment, which was unanimously approved, would automatically enroll a student in such a lottery system.

The concern, Unger said, was the lottery would create an unfair system…

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