CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Democrat Senator Mike Romano successfully offered an amendment that may slow down what looked like quick approval for the expansion of charter schools in West Virginia.
The bill proposed by the House of Delegates to expand charter schools was eventually approved by the Senate Education Committee Tuesday.
House Bill 2012, as amended, was adopted by the Senate committee on a voice vote Tuesday evening. The bill now heads to the full state Senate.
HB 2012 changes the maximum number of charter schools in a three-year period from three to 10. It also allows for a statewide virtual charter school and allows counties to approve smaller virtual charter schools. The first three-year period begins July 1, 2023.
Romano, a Harrison County Democrat, offered the amendment which holds the number of schools for the first three-year period at three. Subsequently, 10 could be created during each of the next three-year periods.
The amendment also limits the number of students who can enroll in the statewide virtual charter school to 1,500 during the first three years. That would increase no more than five percent of the total public school enrollment after the first three years.
“I just think we’re taking a big step here. You guys want these charter schools,” Romano said.
Tacitly, Romano.acknowledged that the supermajority Republicans can pass the bill. “You want virtual charter schools. I understand you’re going to get what you want. Let’s just be a little bit circumscribe. Let’s see if they’re successful. Let’s see if they work in West Virginia before we open them up and potentially take 12,000 students out of the public school system in a statewide virtual program.”
Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Patricia Rucker, a Jefferson County Republican, said the purpose of expanding the public charter school pilot project is to gain eligibility federal funding. Rucker said the state’s limited pilot program makes it ineligible for those dollars which is why the new bill expands it.
Vice Chairman Robert Karnes, a Randolph County Republican, opposed the amendment. He said limiting the number of charter schools during the first three years could reduce federal funding.
Since the program was created in 2019, no charter schools have been approved by county boards of education.
If the full State Senate approves HB 2012 as amended, it would have to return to the House of Delegates to approve the changes made to the bill in the Senate.
Governor Jim Justice has said he’ll sign the bill when he receives it.