Dave Pethtel Speaks Out on House Bill 206
On October 2, 2018, Governor Justice and the Rebulican leadership proposed a 5 percent pay raise for teachers, school service personnel and all state employees. Governor Justice also proposed 100 million dollars for the PEIA Reserve Fund, to help properly fund PEIA.
This was prior to the 2018 general elections. Massive public education reform and charter schools were not mentioned! However, after the election, the stage was set for charter school legislation when Senate President, Mitch Carmichael, appointed Patricia Rucker (R-Jefferson) a strong proponent of charter schools, as Senate Education, Chair-Senator.
During the 2019 Regular Legislative Session, the Senate introduced Senate Bill 451. The bill was refferred to as the “omnibus” education bill because it was a large piece of legislation that sought to reform many aspects of education. It was approved by the Senate 18-16, but died in the House of Delegates, 53-45, as a bipartisan group of legislators voted to postpone indefinitely Senate Bill 451, a 135 page bill.
The end of the regular session saw Governor Justice call an Extraordinary Session “Special Session” for the purpose of comprehensive education reform. Also he requested the State Department of Education to hold forums around the state, and gather input from the public on ideas for education reform.
Out of those public forums 88 percent of the people who attended across the state, or filled out an online questionaire, opposed charter schools. Pethtel said he attended public forums in Wheeling, Doddridge County and New Martinsville and Charter schools were not a priority.
“The house education omnibus bill passed the house 51-47 with bi-partisan opposition against the bill. I voted against the bill. I feel that’s what my District wanted from me. Every where I went they told me they didn’t want charter schools period,” said Delegate Pethtel. “I will also note it had bipartisan opposition in the Senate as well when it passed 18-16.”
The Recently passed House Bill 206; relating to relating to Public Education was a culmination of several month of proposals and debate in the Senate and House over the best ways to reform the education system in West Virginia. The final version of the much debated and controversial bill authorized an additional $130 million dollars for funding education in the state including $67 million for a 5 percent pay increase for school service personnel and $63 million on other initatives.
Funding for the pay raise was set aside in the FY 2020 budget bill and authorization to distribute those raises was given in HB 206. Funding for the other porvisions in the bill comes mostly from money that was left unappropriated at the end of the regular Legislative Session in anticipation of future education legislation.
Pethtel explained that charter schools are public school that are independent of school districts through contracts with state or local boards of education. He said they receive funding based on the number of students that enroll, and the level of funding is determined by the state charter law and the state finace system for public schools.
“Make no misake, public charter schools take funds away from our traditional public school system! The people of the fifth District made it clear that they wanted me to vote against HB 206 because of the charter schools provision,” stated Pethtel. According to the education bill the total numer of public charter schools authorized and in operation under an approved contract is limited to three until July 1, 2023. The first charter pilot cannot start before the 2021-22 school year. After that and additiional three can be started every three years.
“There are many good components of HB 206 which I wish we could have voted on seperately,”said Pethel.
Those components include addign more mental health professionals, counselors, phychologists and nurses in schools and increased frunding for counties with a population of less than 1400 students.
Pethel said he does not anticipate seeing charter school in the local area, however it is possible so voters need to be very careful who they place on the school boards as the final decision to allow them is left up to the local Boards of Education.
Dave Pethtel has been elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates 14 times. He served from 1988-1994. And was again elected in 1998 to the present time. He has served a total of 28 years. He is a former teacher and employee of the Wetzel County Board of Education and is still working as a substitute in Wetzel County Schools.