State Senate flunks lesson on education reform, once again

The state Senate has 34 qualified members, across political lines and the full spectrum of ideology.

Often, during the regular session this winter, these lawmakers did valuable work on any number of subjects ranging from medical cannabis to secondary road funding.

All told 155 bills emerged from the Senate in the regular session and another 10 in a recent special session. That’s out of a total of 311 bills the Legislature completed action on.

Yet, a broad-based education bill that came out of nowhere — and would become the pre-eminent issue — sidelined the Senate’s positive contributions.

Senate Bill 451, the Senate Republican leadership’s omnibus education bill, inevitably would prove to be the bane of the regular session.
Not only did it consume the lion’s share of the 60-day regular session, cause another teacher’s strike a bitterly divide the Senate but left it stained by failure and embarrassment.

Any number of factors stymied SB 451 and inevitably led to its demise in the House. Take your pick: Factionalism, lack of civil debate, hard-line negotiations, irate teachers and marginal public support for this bill.
However, we feel comfortable in speaking for the greater majority of legislators when we say the real problem is the Senate leadership’s either all-or-nothing approach.

All along this insistence that public education reform must be bundled up into a knotty tangle rather than straight individual initiatives — to be voted up or down — has proven now a second time this is a mistake.
On Monday, the Senate passed a similar education reform package that is never going to fly in the House of Delegates, with the teachers’ unions or the public.

Each time the votes on these bills have narrowly averted ending — by one or two votes (Monday by virtue of an absence) — in a tie, which kills all bills.

The House has made it clear it will not pass this latest version of education reform. Instead, its leadership and members are looking at possibly dozens of individuals bills this month.

So, did the state Senate learn the right lessons from the 2019 regular session? Absolutely not.

Rather than do some serious soul-searching and consider new ideas — even strive for a coalition — the Senate president and other leaders torpedoed its bridges, again.

This legislation has no chance unless this broad-based package is broken up into individual proposals.

Why does everyone understand that aside from the 18 state senators who appear intent on crushing any hope of education reforms.

The questions now become: Will the Senate ever learn the right lesson to advance education reform, and will it address its own crisis of leadership.

For our state’s sake, the answers had better be yes.