CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The State Senate on Monday unanimously passed Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's controversial education bill, but not before removing parts of the legislation that have drawn the ire of state teachers unions.
When the Senate reconvened its Monday morning floor session at 1:30 p.m., Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, introduced a 26-page amendment to the 179-page bill.
Plymale spent the weekend in negotiations with state teachers unions and representatives from the governor's office, trying to work out a compromise on the legislation.
The amendments completely removed Teach for America from the bill's language, created additional hiring criteria for teachers, allow counties more flexibility in creating a school calendar and ensured elementary school teachers would get 40-minute planning periods.
Senators agreed to recess their Monday morning floor session until 1:30 p.m. Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said some of the body's Republican members requested additional time to review changes to the bill.
When the chamber reconvened, senators unanimously agreed to adopt the amendments before passing the bill with a 34-0 vote.
Kessler commended Plymale's hard work in helping opposing sides come to an agreement on the contentious legislation.
"I think we worked very hard on this," Plymale said after the vote. "I'm pleased with what we passed.
"I think we kept it strong."
One amendment to the bill would add three criteria to the state's eight-point teacher hiring checklist: a recommendation from a school principal, a recommendation from the faculty senate and National Board Certification. The principal and faculty senate recommendations would be worth twice as much as other criteria, including seniority.
The education bill originally would have allowed county boards to decide how much weight seniority received. Plymale said amendments to the bill still give local school boards more power in hiring, but in a different way.
Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam, said he believes this amended version of the bill "works."
He said he appreciates an amendment giving counties 48 weeks to schedule their calendar, instead of the current 43 weeks, and praised an amendments meant to give local schools more control over who works there.