Supporters of education legislation passed by the West Virginia Senate say it isn’t an act of retaliation against the state’s teachers who walked out of classes twice in less than a year’s time, inspiring teachers in other states to do the same. (See: W.Va. Senate passes ... ,” June 4 Times-News, Page 1A.)
We’re skeptical about that claim because it contains a provision that would allow individual boards of education to fire teachers who go on strike.
There’s also the issue of whether what the teachers did was a strike or a walkout.
Supporters of the bill say it includes a pay raise for teachers and mental health services for students, and those are good things.
A separate bill would allow the state to establish charter schools and school vouchers, which are education savings accounts that would allow parents to set aside all or part of the public funding allocated for the children’s education and apply it to the tuition for a private school.
This provision had been part of education legislation that — along with demands for higher pay and better health insurance funding — caused the teachers to walk out in the first place.
Supporters of the charter school measure say the fact that West Virginia’s test scores rank near the bottom nationwide indicate the need for a change in the way the state educates its students.
They say charter schools would allow teachers to use innovative approaches to education.
According to West Virginia MetroNews, charter schools would be part of the state’s public education system, but wouldn’t be subject to most statues and administrative regulations. They could lose their charters if they fail to meet standards.
The bill doesn’t say charter schools must be established, only that they can be, and no limit on their numbers was set.
County boards of education and the state board of education could establish charter schools, and colleges and universities could open as many as four.
Opponents among the state’s teacher unions say they were left out of the bill-drafting process and that the state is catering to charter school interests from out of state.
They also say that public schools in West Virginia already are underfunded, and charter schools would siphon even more money from them.
An ongoing debate has surrounded whether or not charter schools perform better than public schools, but this is demonstrable:
Just as some public schools are better than others, some charter schools are better than others, and some of both aren’t very good at all.
By and large, public schools are more successful in areas where the economy is better.
Data First, an instrument of the Center for Public Education, says research indicates that nationwide, 17% of charter school students performed significantly better than they would have at their neighborhood traditional public school.
However, 37% of students in charter schools performed significantly worse, and the remaining 46% did no better or worse.
Overall, most charter schools do no better or worse than traditional public schools, and their effectiveness varies from state to state.
However, students in charter schools score higher on college entrance exams and are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college than those who attend traditional public schools.
The West Virginia teachers who walked out of classes last year and won concessions on pay raises, health insurance and other issues — and inspired teachers in other states to do the same — consider the Senate bill to be an act of retaliation.
That’s because of the provision that would allow individual boards of education to fire teachers who go on strike. It’s difficult to think of this as anything but a way of getting even.
West Virginia teachers don’t have collective bargaining and aren’t legally allowed to go on strike, but what they did last year had the support of their communities and school administrations.
Officials in all 55 counties closed school every day in support of the teachers, who were joined on the picket lines by students and parents, so it was a walkout and not technically a strike — even though it was called one.
The teachers didn’t lose pay and made up lost days at the end of the year.
The education bill still must be considered by the West Virginia House of Delegates.
Also, it doesn’t meet with the complete approval of Gov. Jim Justice, who dislikes a provision that would cancel school athletic events on days when teachers have a work stoppage.
He also said it should be broken up into separate proposals so legislators would know what individual matter they’re voting for or against, rather than having them lumped into one package.