David Kelly Confident HB 206 Is Good For Education
Delegate David Kelly, R-Tyler, stands confident he made the right choice for Education in West Virginia when he cast his vote in support of HB-206, during the recent special legislative session held at the Capitol Complex in Charleston. The House of Delegates showed their support across party lines by passing the bill with a 51-47 vote on Wednesday, June 19.
On June 24 the state Senate passed the House Bill during a special session on education called by Governor Jim Justice. On Friday June 28, Justice signed the Bill into law. The 155-page education bill is a result of compromise between the House, Senate, and the Governor over the public charter school provision in the bill. The three groups agreed to allow a three-school charter school program until 2023 should a county school board choose to allow one. It would also allow for three more charter schools every three years thereafter.
“It’s not a perfect bill, but it’s a step forward for Education in the state There are some great improvements in it for West Virginia Education. HB 206 includes more than $177 million in investment for public K-12 schools,” said Kelly. “I believe after a week of hard work we were able to set aside are differences and come up with a bill that is a fair compromise and works for everyone. Not everyone was pleased but it wasn’t for lack of trying on our part.”
The Senate version of the education bill allowed an unlimited number of charter schools. The House bill reduced that down to three. Educators from around the state attended the House sessions and verbally expressed their displeasure with the bill. However, Kelly said his position was clear from the beginning.
“The Charter school issue was the most controversial issue we dealt with in HB-206. I made it clear from the very beginning I wasn’t willing to agree to anything concerning charter schools that wasn’t limited. I felt if we narrowed the charter schools down, we would be able to see if they work before allowing them everywhere,” he added.
Included in the bill for the three counties Kelly, represents is $1,375.383 for Tyler County Schools, $216,478 for Doddridge County Schools and $1,377,355 for Pleasants County Schools. Other improvements include higher salaries for teachers and service personnel, additional counselors and student support plus higher wages for math teachers at a cost of $2.3 million and special education teachers, with a cost of $5.3 million.
According to the Senate Finance Committee, HB 206 carries a price tag of more tan $130 million, with pay raises for teachers and school service personnel accounting for $68 million of that with an average raise of 5 percent. Increasing the number of mental health professionals in schools will take $30 million more from the total.
Other benefits for teachers include a $500 bonus for using less than four days of sick leave at a cost of $2 million. Teachers will also get $200 per year for purchasing academic supplies, materials, and equipment, with an increase of one percent over the current expense percentage. This will cost another $6.5 million.
“I am proud to say we have moved our state forward in education and many other ways. We are making West Virginia a better place to live and raise a family. We have great schools and the new education bill will make them even better,” stated Kelley.
He said he understands that a high percentage, 88 percent of people who attended the education forums were against charter schools. Yet he believes everyone has a voice including that small 12 percent minority of supporters of charter schools.
“I understand it completely. However, we live in a state that stands for freedom and allows people to choose their way in life. I think of those 12 percent, I believe they deserve to have their opinions and voices heard. That’s why I voted for HB-206. It was a fair compromise that took in consideration, both sides of the issue. I voted for all of West Virginia. This is a very good bill, a fair bill and a generous bill. It allows the local school boards to decide if they want charter schools and at the end of the three year period following an evaluation by the state Board of Education three additional public charter schools may be added,” Kelly said.
“I will also add hat we eliminated language that supported Educational Saving Acounts. For me, it wasn’t open for bebate and will remain that way. We built this bill on a great foundation and will continue to build on it. My number one priority is to provide teachers with the money and benefits they deserve to make them competitive with surrounding states. The bill also provides funding for more counselors in the schools, we recognize there is an issue and we’re trying to fix it..”
Kelly said he did what he believes to be best for all the teachers in his disdrict and all the students. He said they spent hours upon hours working to come up with an education bill which would be fair and just for all involved and although it’s not what everyone wanted it’s by far the best they could get at this time. Kelly added he will continue to work for education in West Virginia, to make the state one of the best in the nation.