Good Things Happen in West Virginia’s Public Schools

As we gear up for the special legislative session dealing with what the governor calls education ‘betterment’, we need to remind our friends and neighbors about the good things happening each and every day in our public schools. Here are some talking points you can use.

  • Our public schools are succeeding but everyone would like to see them improve and all our students achieving at a high level. Our public schools are far more academically challenging than in the past and the expectations for our students are high. We recognize that all students progress at different levels. They come into our public schools with different levels of preparedness and they will not all be at subject mastery at the same time. Standardized tests scores are not valid indicators of student success.
  • When you look at the top tier of states in terms of student achievement they have several items in common. Two of the most significant are the percent of students in poverty and the educational attainment levels of adults. States with the lowest percentages of student poverty and the highest percentage of adults with college degrees tend to score higher in student achievement.
  • WV has one of the highest incidences of children living in poverty in the nation. While that does not prevent a child from achieving, it often means that students start more slowly and need additional services to reach their full potential.
  • Society’s problems do not stop at the doors of our schools and our children’s focus is disrupted by what is going on in their family and surroundings. Our students are facing the highest numbers ever for those living in foster homes and living with someone other than a parent.
  • Our highest achieving students are quite competitive when compared with their peers in student achievement. And when you compare the student achievement of WV’s kids living in poverty against students in other states living in poverty, our students score exceptionally well.
  • Poverty and generations of low levels of educational attainment cannot be overcome quickly. WV is making progress but without the proper supports it has taken more time than any of us would like.

 

What can help our public schools improve?

  • Charters, ESAs and vouchers take funding away from our public schools and give it to other entities. We should focus on investing in schools where 90% of our children go and not diverting money to other education/privatization schemes.
  • Not only are these items not proven to improve student achievement, but many are proven to be divisive and will actually do harm to existing public schools and students by taking much needed funding away from our public schools.
  • We must provide a great public school for every student in the state regardless of their zip code. Improving public schools requires more resources, not less. Every student deserves a quality, well- equipped school where they can learn, be inspired and thrive.
  • If we are serious about improving our public schools then let’s look at proven reforms. This means creating schools with inviting classrooms, a well-rounded curriculum, class sizes that are small enough for one-on-one attention and support services such as health care, nutrition and after-school programs for students who need them.
  • Our students need extended day and summer programs; alternative education facilities; expanded vocational education options; additional specialists, including special education teachers, school counselors, nurses and psychologists; and resources to help parents and guardians.
  • Everyone wants to improve our public schools and there are many proven ways to increase student achievement. Many of the items introduced as reform measures by our legislators are not designed to improve our schools or the schools of any state.
  • We should invest in the things that are proven to make schools great and help every student achieve to their peak potential regardless of their zip code.

Funding for public education:

  • Funding for public education continues to fall. During the 1990s education was 57% of the state budget; it has dropped to less than 46% today. If the legislature had maintained funding levels, then money would be available to maintain competitive pay, provide adequate classroom supplies, lower class sizes, hire support services in our schools and offer more programs to our students.
  • The funding formula for our public schools has not been significantly changed in the past 40 years. Yet, the issues that our schools deal with mirror the changes in society. We need to be able to add nurses, counselors, social workers, safety officers and others without subtracting from the number of teachers and service professionals allowed in the formula.
  • West Virginia has significantly reduced the number of school buildings in the state through consolidation. But regardless of the number of buildings, they must be adequately maintained. Leaking roofs and antiquated HVAC systems desperately need to be replaced but there is no money provided in the formula for many of those costly repairs. Our public school cannot continue to limp along without proper funding. Our students suffer from the poor upkeep/air quality.
  • Many of the changes to public education introduced in recent years actually take money away from our schools. Charter schools, vouchers and education savings accounts all take money from our already strapped local school systems in order to assist a small number of students.
  • Legislators continue to talk about giving tax breaks to businesses. Those tax breaks harm our students and our public schools by taking money from the school systems. This session legislators actually reduced the coal severance tax taking over $60 million out of the state’s budget. This is money that can be used to meet the needs of our students and our schools.

Charters, Vouchers, and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs):

  • We need to improve our public schools and make quality education opportunities available to all students, not just a select few. To provide the opportunities for charters, vouchers and ESAs to a few select students, all public-school students will suffer as a result of decreased funding. Those programs will operate by taking much needed funds away from the county in order to fund the newly created program.
  • We should focus on investing in public schools where 90% of children go, not diverting money from them for the 10% who go to private or home schools.
  • After charters or vouchers or ESAs are created, and the funding is gone, our public schools are left without the state money but still have the same bills to pay. With systems struggling to make ends meet any additional loss of revenue would be devastating for the students and the programs offered.
  • Based on Census data, West Virginia ranks 50th in the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degrees and 50th in the percentage of adults with an advanced degree. If we are to attract industry, we must provide a highly skilled and quality workforce. Hampering our already struggling schools by taking away funding will harm our ability to attract businesses and further weaken our state’s economy.
  • Vouchers, charters and ESAs do not reduce public education costs. Actually, they increase costs by requiring taxpayers to fund two school systems and their bureaucracies – one public and one public charter.
  • The term “education savings accounts – ESAs” is intended to deceive. It is not the type of account that parents can contribute their own money into (think of the Smart529 accounts). Instead, the money that goes into an ESA is money that has been reallocated from the public school budget.
  • Even with vouchers, most parents will not find it enough money for needed services or tuition at private schools for their children.

Legislative Update: February 2nd

‘Ominous’ Omnibus Ed Bill: The Latest

Remember the joint information meeting on Monday, February 4th at 6:00pm in the WCHS media center/library. This meeting is to discuss and answer questions regarding the omnibus ed bill, work action authorization vote, and more. This meeting is sponsored by WCEA, AFT, WVSSPA and is open to all Webster County teachers and service personnel regardless of organization membership or affiliation.

Seldom has a bill with such a high cost and significant impact moved so quickly through the Senate. Even less rarely is the committee-of-the-whole strategy used in order to bypass a committee that was poised to defeat it.

Such is the legislative process in Mitch Carmichael’s Senate as he attempts to exact revenge, at any cost, for the actions that happened during the last legislative session.

After last year’s walkouts, education employees eagerly returned to their jobs and were back to doing all they could to help our students succeed but obviously the Senate Republican leadership couldn’t let go of the past.

School employee organizations, community organizations, the State Board, the Governor, local chambers of commerce, county boards of education and just about anyone with common sense can see through their actions and have come out against the bill.

We all see SB 451 as a retaliatory, vindictive act that does little to improve our public schools or help our students achieve at a higher level.

We have all tried to reach those 18 senators who voted in favor of the bill, but they are clearly more concerned about pleasing Senator Carmichael and those outside interests intent on destroying our public schools than they are about the students, educators and citizens of our state.

In discussions with some of those pro-SB 451 senators, they readily admit comments from their constituents is overwhelmingly against the bill. But they refuse to listen to the people who sent them to the capitol.

In our district, Senator Hamilton has voted against passage of the bill at each stage and voted with the minority as they tried and failed to amend the bill to break it into pieces and kill its negative components. 

Senator Boso voted with the majority to pass the bill at all stages and voted against amendments that would have broken the bill into individual components and removed negative components such as charter schools, education savings account, paycheck protection, and more. Senator Boso has also refused to respond to constituent phone calls, emails, and messages regarding the reasoning for his vote.

It is a virtual certainty that the bill is going to pass the Senate and no amendments they are willing to adopt will make it acceptable.

Right now, we need to pick our battles and move on to our next steps.

First, we need to shift our focus to the House. We believe we have 10-15 Republican delegates who will join with the 41 Democrats to keep the bill from advancing in its current state.

In our district, it is somewhat concerning that Delegate Hanna has been rather silent regarding his support or opposition of the bill. Several members report attempting to contact him through email and phone and not receiving any responses to their concerns.

As we have said from the start, ask them to break this bill up into separate sections, discuss them individually and let each topic pass or fail on its own merits.

Contact members of the House and urge them to support public education. Stop the omnibus bill and break it up.

Secondly, we need to extend our game plan a little further and be prepared should the House follow the Senate’s lead.

Local leadership of WCEA, AFT, and WVSSPA have received ballots “to authorize the state leadership of the AFT-WV, WVSSPA and WVEA to call a statewide work action should circumstances surrounding the Omnibus Education Bill merit such a work stoppage. And to further authorize the state leadership of the organizations to determine the appropriate time for that action to take place.”

We will begin voting via the secret ballot in Webster County Schools on Wednesday, February 6th. 

We know that no one wants to be out of the classroom again, but this is about the future of our students and the future of public education in our state.

All options are on the table and we need to be prepared.

We know the Senate has some very immature bullies in its ranks and they are unhappy about how the events of last session ended.

The common belief is that the House is poised to respond much differently than the Senate and the delegates understand the gravity of the Senate’s actions and the firestorm they have caused.

Our focus this coming week is to count votes. Both those of supportive House members and those to authorize additional actions should they need to occur.

Don’t be fooled. Get accurate information.

For some reason there are groups of people who love disruption and will go to any lengths to make it happen. They love to spread inaccurate information and needlessly work everyone into a frenzy.

We saw those groups operating on social media during last year’s walkouts and many of the disruptors, especially out-of-state groups with ulterior motives, and ‘bots’ are back again.

Don’t fall for fake news and baiting posts. WVEA has a variety of platforms designed to provide you with accurate/timely information.

WVEA Website. The WVEA website, www.wvea.org contains contact information for each Legislator – phone, email and office.

We post daily and weekly updates on bills and issues that impact education employees. Our daily report (Lobbyline) is posted each evening and gives a recap of the day’s events. On Friday, we produce a recap of the week’s activities and a look ahead. That Legislative Update is posted each Friday afternoon and emailed to our members.

Social media. WVEA also uses Facebook and Twitter to keep you informed during the session. We post notification of our daily and weekly updates to social media and often use the platforms to ask you to respond to a quick moving piece of legislation.

WVEA’s official Facebook page is Dedicated Teachers (www.facebook.com/dedicatedteachers). Our WVEA Twitter account is (www.twitter.com/WVEAnews). Make sure you follow each of those pages throughout the legislative session.

In addition to social media, WVEA will also post occasional videos to keep you updated and informed. You will be able to find those videos on the WVEA website, on Dedicated Teachers and on our YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/WVEAUpdate).

E-mails and text alerts. Legislation often moves quickly and requires action; so during the session we will send emails and text alerts if immediate action is required. We try not to overload you with texts and emails but there are times when we need to send out calls for action.

Stay alert and keep informed!


Legislative Update – Jan. 20

The Latest from the Bad Idea Factory:

As the session begins to kick into high gear, there is a lot of anger, frustration, questions, and concerns surrounding the attacks on public education. We must channel that energy in a constructive way to put pressure on lawmakers that enough is enough. Merely complaining to each other and on social media won’t stop the bad policies that affect our livelihoods, our profession, and our communities. Call and email your legislators regularly. Let them know that you are fed up with their playing games with your insurance, salary, and retirement. Let them know that you are fed up with their attacks on the institution of public education. Most importantly, let them know that you are a voter and constituent, and fed up with their actions as your representative.

The legislature is currently mostly dealing with rollover bills. These are bills that were introduced last session and failed to pass. Many of these are bad for public education.

Read moreLegislative Update – Jan. 20

New Retirees to be Honored by BOE

Ten people have retired from Webster County Schools during the 2015-2016 school year and they will be honored at the upcoming Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, May 24th. Employees who have retired during the past school year are: Sandra Barger, Sharon Hosey, Deborah Cooper, Beth Flanagan, Ann Wilson, Teresa Clark, Carol Green, Sheila Hatley, Vernon Wolford, and Sally Tanner.

Read moreNew Retirees to be Honored by BOE