- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 18, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The West Virginia House of Delegates pushed a sweeping Republican education proposal one step closer to passage Tuesday.

Lawmakers advanced the plan to allow the state’s first charter schools without debate, setting it up for a full vote in the GOP-controlled chamber Wednesday. If approved, the bill would then head to the Senate for consideration.

Education unions and Democrats oppose the measure. They argue that it’s similar to a wide-ranging Senate bill that has led to massive teacher protests at the Capitol.

The House bill would, among other things, cap the number at charter schools at 10. Del. Paul Espinosa, a Republican who sponsored the measure, said teachers he’s spoken with appreciate that the decision to authorize a charter is left up to county school boards.

Teachers filled the House’s galleries Tuesday and chanted outside the chamber as legislators met.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice called a special legislative session after lawmakers failed to agree on education measures following a teacher strike during the regular session.

Teachers in West Virginia took to the picket line in February over a complex education bill that tied a pay raise in with the formation of charter schools. Educators protested outside schools and packed the state Capitol during the two-day walkout. They argued that the bill was retaliation for last year’s nine-day strike over pay raises and health insurance, which kicked off a national wave of teacher unrest.

Before lawmakers reconvened, public forums on education were held statewide, at the end of which the Department of Education released a report questioning the formation of charter schools.

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