CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The House of Delegates rejected Republican attempts Thursday to add charter schools, an alternative teacher evaluation process and other changes to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education proposal, advancing it toward a vote Friday on final approval.
Other failed GOP amendments amid a two-hour debate sought to deepen cuts at the state Department of Education, create an electronic textbook pilot program, and restore a $175,000 cap for the state school superintendent's annual salary. Before the Senate unanimously passed the bill Monday, its Education Committee had removed the cap.
Among its numerous provisions, the measure rewrites teacher hiring and transfers policies and aims to help counties provide the mandated 180 days of student instruction each year. It would pay nationally certified teachers the $1,150 needed to renew that vaunted status, and offer loan forgiveness worth up to $15,000 to those who agree to teach subjects or in parts of the state facing critical shortages.
The legislation also seeks to advance Tomblin's goals of ensuring that every third-grader ends that year reading at grade level, and that high school students enter their senior year ready for college or career training. Following its Senate passage, the House Education Committee endorsed the 190-page bill Tuesday without dissent or amendment.
Thursday's votes tested the Republicans' clout after last year's election increased their ranks in the House to 46 of 100 seats, their largest share in 70 years. But while the proposal for further cuts failed 44-52 along party lines, none of the four other GOP amendments attracted more than 26 votes in support.
Tomblin, a Democrat, opposed the changes sought by Republicans, said spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin.
"The governor feels that we have a solid bill," Goodwin said. "He doesn't believe any amendments are needed."
Senate Education Committee members removed the superintendent's salary cap after the state Board of Education lobbied for loosening limits on that job so it can search nationally for candidates. Tomblin's bill already removes the requirement that the superintendent's graduate degree has to be in education administration.
"We need a leader who can do something different in West Virginia," said House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour.