The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 1, 2013

Tomblin defends education bill

CHARLESTON — Unfounded rumors early on have clouded the intent of a massive education reform bill in this session, but such fears as fewer holidays and weekend classes can be dismissed, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Friday.

Already, heads of West Virginia’s two teacher unions have posted strong opposition to the 179-page bill, working its way initially in the state Senate.

Tomblin said he has met with both the West Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers to air their concerns.

“I think some of the issues can be addressed,” he said.

“There were some rumors put out that the bill would take paid holidays away. That’s not the case at all.”

Scuttlebutt also suggested that teachers would be called on to conduct Saturday classes, but again, Tomblin said, “That’s not the case.”

“There are some issues out there, that maybe the way the bill was read, or something, or the way it was drafted, that we can clean it up,” he said.

“But there was never any intent to take anyone’s holidays away from them.”

Tomblin said one component of the legislation is merely to provide flexibility to schools in determining their calendars.

Senate Education Chairman Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, already has had the huge bill on his committee agenda, and the work is expected to intensify next week.

Plymale said the measure would be up next Tuesday, possibly twice, if necessary.

Time ran out Thursday before both Dale Lee and Judy Hale, presidents of the WVEA and AFT, respectively, had an opportunity to air their concerns over the reform bill.

The two are expected to testify on the measure, which they have decried as a failure.

Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, has said he wants to get the bill on the floor for a vote and sent to the House by the mid-way point of the session.

In a brief interview outside his office, Tomblin laughed when asked if he would sign the House-passed bill that would equalize the pay of all West Virginia magistrates and their court staffs.

Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, has suggested the measure has little chance in the upper chamber.

Would Tomblin sign it in the unlikely event that the pay bill reaches his desk? “I haven’t seen it yet,” Tomblin said, smiling. “I’ll put it that way.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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