CHARLESTON, W.Va. - If Tuesday's session of the House Education Committee is any indication, then all parties are on board with the latest version of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education reform bill.
The committee unanimously voted to approve the measure Tuesday afternoon, following less than two hours of discussion. That is a good sign the bill is on the verge of becoming law.
"The bill's clearly been endorsed wholeheartedly by the Senate and the House Education Committee with no second reference," said Hallie Mason, Tomblin's policy director. "So we believe barring any other situations, which do arise, that it'll happen."
The Senate unanimously passed a heavily revised copy of the bill on Monday. That version -- full of compromises between the governor's staff and stakeholders -- already went through edits in the Senate Education Committee and scrutiny in the Senate Finance Committee.
House Education Committee members were watching that process, said Vice Chairman Josh Stowers, D-Lincoln. Tearing apart the bill and coming out with a popular measure led to practically no debate Tuesday, Stowers said.
"A lot of the questions the members had have been answered over the course of the last month on the Senate side, and the negotiations over there. Obviously it was a big bill, but I think a lot of the questions had already been answered."
Delegates did ask a few questions, following a lengthy explanation of the bill. Several delegates had questions focused on standards and assessments.
Delegate Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson, talked about the bill's college and career readiness components. Specifically, she asked why the bill included only math and English proficiency as a barometer for student success. Mason said that was Tomblin's and the state Department of Education's focus right now.
Changes to the school accreditation system did not meet the liking of Delegate Dave Perry, D-Fayette. He asked about the Office of Education Performance Audits: he thinks the office is being given too much leeway in their assessment power of schools. Proponents argue the changes let the office assess schools before they are struggling, nipping any problems in the bud.
Removing the state superintendent's salary from code faced some questions as well. Delegate George Ambler, R-Greenbrier, drilled down on Board of Education President Wade Linger as to why there wasn't a limit or some expectation at this point as to what that person might make.
Delegate Ron Fragale, D-Harrison, said the change lowered the bar for the person seeking the position.
Linger, who wants the salary and specific education requirements for the position, disagreed. Taking away the dollar amount -- $175,000 -- and eliminating the requirement that the candidate have a masters' degree in Education Administration allows for a broader search of equally qualified candidates, he said.