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!

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