CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An amendment to be proposed in the state Senate on the omnibus education bill would include 1,000 education savings accounts and up to seven charter schools.

The Senate was set to come back in at 2:30 p.m. to consider the education bill, which went through major changes in the House of Delegates last week. Meanwhile, the House set a return time of 4 p.m. Either of those times could experience delays.

The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia was asking its members to call delegates to sway them.

Senators had three choices. They could accept the House version, which is regarded as unlikely. They could try to amend the House version, more likely. Or they could refuse to concur with House changes and send the bill back.

The Senate appeared to be on track to offer an amendment.

“There’s still a lot of discussion right now,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha this morning. “We’re trying to talk with our House colleagues, talk amongst ourselves. It was very disappointing to see what the House did with the bill.”

Takubo said he is less concerned with what might pass the House than what he believes would make good policy.

Tom Takubo

“We’ve got to stand strong for what we believe is right,” he said. “If all we’re going to come up here and try to do is be popular and do exactly what we’re told to do than I’ve got a pretty important day job. They don’t need me.

“But if you want to do what’s right that’s actually going to move the needle and help our kids, then you have to do what you believe in.”

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, this morning said the leaders of the two houses have continued discussions over several days.

“We’ve been working with the Senate since last week, and we’ll continue to do it,” Hanshaw said today.

Hanshaw said parts of the bill, like charter schools and education savings accounts, have been the focus of public attention.

The House bill has two charter schools and the Senate has six, but there requirements in each instance to actually establish a charter. The House removed the education savings accounts, which provide money for students moving from public school to private.

“Those are what I’ve described as almost theoretical here in the state. They may, even if adopted, never come to fruition,” Hanshaw said.

“Those things can’t be allowed to stand in the way of things that will absolutely happen and absolutely be beneficial.”

He touted aspects of the bill providing an estimated $24 million for guidance counselors, nurses and mental health professionals for schools.

“Those are certain to happen if this bill passes,” he said.

He also described provisions in the bill that would consider the minimal number of students in each county to be 1,400. In other words, counties that have fewer students than that would receive greater funding, as if they have 1,400.

“Those are not theoretical constructs. Those things will happen,” Hanshaw said, “and if you are a county school system, that’s a godsend to you.”

In the Senate, Takubo said he still feels strongly about charter schools and education savings accounts. He contended those components would help students across the state.

Of the House, Takubo said, “They did a lot of things to the bill that they basically bent and yielded to the teachers unions, and frankly I think hurts a lot of kids. So hopefully we get some of that back.

He continued, “Essentially what they did was kill the charter school provision of the bill.”

Takubo said charter schools have been prevalent in other states while West Virginia has continued to debate the option.

“It is mind-boggling why you would want to hamstring yourself and not give our kids the same opportunities that have been successful,” he said.

Takubo agreed that even if charter schools are approved, there probably wouldn’t be many.

“It is going to take time,” he said. “Even if we had an unlimited number of charter schools the reality is in five years you’re going to be lucky if there were two or three charter schools. However, the opportunity needs to be there.”

Takubo said he believes the charters provision will be bolstered in the end: “I think at the end of the day, we will see a reasonable charter piece.”

But otherwise, he was making few predictions.

“I learned a long time ago, I can’t predict what this Legislature does,” he said.