Last week, it came to light that while the highly-touted special session is finally happening in Charleston, the topic may not be education. Instead, West Virginia state legislatures are speculating they will discuss other bills that had failed during the regular legislative session.
This is a colossal mistake.
Out of all of the bills that have been vetoed, out of all of the topics that should be discussed, education should be at the top of the list. This has been a problem in our state far too long, and solutions should be a priority.
In response to the decision to push back the discussion of education, our state’s Democratic legislators announced they will be introducing eight education bills on Monday. In those bills will be plans to expand vocational programs into middle schools, give teachers pay raises, and place more mental health professionals into the schools.
The reasoning for this strategy is because, according to Democratic Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso(D-Marion), the Republican majority refused to act, so the Democrats are stepping up to be the adult in the room.
There is no indication that Republican leaders have abandoned their desire for charter schools and school vouchers, items that killed the key education bill in this year’s Session and triggered a statewide teacher work stoppage.
This is exemplified by the Republican reaction to the Democratic bills, a plan to introduce yet another education bill in the coming weeks that will include a teacher pay raise, and yes, public charter schools.
The reason the omnibus education bill failed was because it did not reflect what the educators knew the West Virginian education system needed to thrive. It was a good step to assign legislators to various educational committees to better understand what they needed — it was a sign that this issue will finally be addressed the way it should.
It was implied that our legislators would more actively communicate and work with the educators – the people who best know what to fix within the educational system. It was implied that the special session would work to develop a bill that all parties would agree to because it would best benefit the children of our state.
So, why is the special session not focused on education? Why waste taxpayer money on a session that will not deliver what was promised?
Teachers and union leaders have been vocal about cancelling the special session unless it is going to lead to a bonafide educational solution.
The teachers have also made it clear that charter schools and vouchers are proposals that are dead on arrival.
We urge the Republican leadership to look at the Democrats’ bills. As Prezioso said, let’s at least discuss them.
Wrap around services, parental involvement and ways to better recruit and retain teachers and funding that would keep teachers from having to use personal funds to buy glue sticks and craft paper and other classroom supplies in the Mountain State are all great ideas that should be discussed.
West Virginia lawmakers do not need to mimic the divisiveness we see in our nation’s Capitol. The Mountain State is above that and our children deserve better.