Bad Bills for Public Education …Published:February 17, 2021
The last four years as a teacher have greatly taxed the energies of public school employees in West Virginia. Two successful strikes and two years marred by a pandemic, and despite the amount of energy we continually put into politics and our jobs, the West Virginia Legislature refuses to enact policies that benefit students, educators, or other personnel working in our system. Again, Republican Party leadership is advancing legislation that not only does no good for education, but harms it.
Former President Calvin Coolidge once noted, “It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.” And we have so many bad bills in the Legislature.
What bills stand out the most in the 2021 Session?
After establishing legislation allowing charter schools on a limited basis, this will expands the number of charter schools allowed in the state from three to 10. The bill would also permit one ‘virtual charter school,’ which invites disaster. The sheer number of individuals and groups who have defrauded state governments through virtual charter schools is enough to never allow them in West Virginia. Also, the bill would allow any virtual charter school to receive a five year charter. Why?
This bill would also allow the charter school to act independently of county school boards, robbing the counties of the localized control Republicans have touted for years. If a county opts not to authorize the charter school, the applicants can appeal to the state for authorization, which is bizarre.
Perhaps more alarming is the speed with which the House of Delegates is passing this bill. HB 2012 passed through all three readings, committee, markup, debate, and a final passage by 66-32 vote (two abstentions) in SIX DAYS. Is there some legislative fiber the House is taking to expedite the process?
This bill attempts outlaw any teacher work stoppage. This is nothing more than GOP retribution against teachers. Please consider the irony of this legislation in a state where strikes define so much of the labor movement of the early 20th century. Is there any surprise Patricia Rucker (R-16) is the lead sponsor of the bill?
Speaking of Rucker, she is also the lead sponsor on this bill, which would alter current standards for becoming a teacher in West Virginia. It would allow anyone with a bachelor’s degree to take “pedagogical training or a pedagogical course or courses in substantive alignment with nationally recognized pedagogical standards, or approved or established by the state board …” and take the PRAXIS tests to gain certification.
The translation? A four year degree and a class or two on educational training is commensurate with the training and education from an accredited education program. The law also establishes a teaching certificate gained in this manner is equal to that of the traditional method.
This bill waters down educational standards for teachers. There’s no way around it.
This bill, in its entirety, reads as follows: “The state board shall prohibit persons from putting up displays relating to sexuality in public school facilities and shall forbid the teaching of sexuality in public schools.” In reality, this bill aims to prevent teaching or displaying anything about homosexuality. (Note to all Cabell County residents: one guess who one of the three sponsors is.). The practical nature of the bill is as ridiculous. Sexuality is a topic in numerous academic subjects. It would be unethical for teachers to ignore sexuality as a part of a curriculum.
HB 2314 and SB 15
A large portion of educators possess an advanced degree, and, as such, receive enhanced salary. However, this legislation would not allow a teacher to receive their additional pay for having a master’s or doctorate unless they were teaching in that field. So, if a teacher holds an advanced degree in special education, but currently teach English / Language Arts, they would not receive master’s pay. The Senate has a more convoluted bill which attempts to deprive people of pay despite their having obtained a higher degree of education.
SB 90 and HB 2321
Both of these bills relate towards establishing “Education Savings Accounts,” allowing money allotted to per pupil expenditures for public schools to ‘follow the student’ to whatever charter or private school the parents would like to send their child. Money allocated for public schools should stay in public schools. Does a person have the ability to choose which roads their tax dollars pay to establish and repair? Of course not. Why would we permit ESAs? This doesn’t even address the fact that individuals could defraud the state by ‘home schooling’ their children. How many would use money for the resources that may or may not be legitimate expenditures?
Please contact your senators and delegates and let them know to vote NO on these pieces of legislation!
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