CHARLESTON, W.Va. - From the number of educators, lawmakers and officials smiling Monday, one might never have known how much haggling went on behind the scenes to find common ground on the governor's education bill.
This version of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's reform measure was significantly different than when it was introduced, but most of the involved parties say they are satisfied with the result.
"Since the governor's bill was introduced we've met on a daily basis -- nights, weekends -- with members of the Senate, members of the House, education groups," said Rob Alsop, Tomblin's chief of staff.
The bill, unanimously approved by the Senate Monday afternoon, included 26 pages of amendments. Those changes centered on ideas that teachers unions had dubbed major sticking points.
Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, and Judy Hale, president of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, were satisfied with the changes.
"Everybody I think came to the table to bargain in good faith. And so we were able to work through those differences," Hale said. "To me it is a much, much better bill today than it was in the beginning, but it has retained the things I think that are really good for education reform."
The largest change involved Teach For America, a national nonprofit that pairs high-achieving college graduates with high-need schools.
There already were certification programs in place that allowed some participants in that program to enter the state's classrooms.
The first edition of the bill would have allowed other program participants to achieve certification. The second version of the bill dropped the name "Teach for America," replacing it with "national teaching corps."
Monday's version of the bill simply calls for the issue to be studied further.
Will Nash, executive director of Teach For America Appalachia, said he was surprised and disappointed the program was nixed from the final bill. All along he said he knew it was a contentious point, but he didn't hear until Monday morning that the entire program was on the chopping block.
Lee is confident the study will show alternative certification programs including Teach For America don't provide qualified teachers. Nash is confident it will show the opposite.
"As one of the most studied teacher preparation programs, we are eager to have an opportunity to share the research on our impact across 36 other states, including the most recent and rigorous studies that indicate corps members have a positive impact on student achievement," Nash said in a statement.
Alsop said the governor still believes it is a quality program, but the office recognizes there were concerns over school systems paying to have Teach For America participants in the classroom. In Kentucky, schools systems pay about $3,000 per program member, Nash recently told the Daily Mail.
There were also significant changes to teacher hiring.
Seniority will remain a factor in the hiring process, but lawmakers added another four factors to be considered in hiring a teacher.
Opinions of principals and faculty senates -- both of which were new criteria -- will carry double the weight of the other nine factors. The other nine factors will be weighted equally.
"So it gives more flexibility at the local level both for the principal and the teacher to figure out who the best person is that's coming into their school," Hale said.