West Virginia education groups poised to take statewide action over reform bill


    Three groups representing West Virginia school employees say they are poised for statewide action over the Senate's proposed education reform bill. They expect a vote next week. (WCHS/WVAH)

    UPDATE, 11 a.m.

    Three groups representing West Virginia school groups said Friday they are poised to take statewide action on the education reform bill and expect to take a vote next week.

    School groups announced the move at the state Capitol, just before the Senate was scheduled to have the second reading of the omnibus bill, Senate Bill 451.

    The West Virginia Education Association, West Virginia School Service Personnel Association and American Federation of Teachers held the news conference. Education groups have been furious over the bill, which bundles together a 5 percent pay raise and money for public health insurance with other education reforms, including charter schools.

    David Haney, executive director of the WVEA, opened the news conference with a statement.

    “We are here today to announce that the leadership of the three education employee organizations have sent ballots to our local leadership with language to authorize the state leadership of the AFT-WV, the WVSSP and WVEA to call statewide action should circumstances surrounding the omnibus education bill merit such action and to further authorize the state leadership of the organizations to determine an appropriate time for that action to take place,” Haney said.

    Next week school employees will be voting for state leadership to take action if needed.

    Dale Lee, president of the WVEA, said he expects the bill to pass through the Senate.

    “Our members are engaged in working to dismantle the bill and we all hope that the House steps up and does the right thing,” Lee said.



    ORIGINAL STORY:

    With the Senate edging closer to passage of the controversial education reform bill, three organizations that represent school employees in West Virginia will hold a news conference Friday to discuss their future actions.


    A news advisory said the groups will be discussing Senate Bill 451 and "actions moving forward." The news conference comes as Senate is scheduled to take up the second reading of the more than 140-page bill. Senators will gather at 11 a.m. Friday.

    On Thursday, the Senate approved first reading of the more than 140-page bill by a 18-16 vote.

    Much of the controversy surrounding the measure is the provision that would create charter schools. The bill bundles the proposed 5 percent pay raise for public school employees and money for the Public Employees Insurance Agency with other education reforms.

    Education groups have spoken out about the bill and have claimed that they believe some of the provisions are revenge for last year’s nine-day education strike. They said they would like to see aspects of the proposed legislation considered as separate bills that could be voted up or down, based on their merits.

    On Wednesday, the state Board of Education met in an emergency session and detailed what aspects of the bill that members support and what they oppose. They complained they were not given input on the bill, even though the state constitution gives the state Board of Education authority over public education in the state.

    West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said he would veto the omnibus education bill if it crosses his desk in its current form. The governor said he favors his own bill, which calls for the 5 percent pay raise and PEIA money only. Justice said any other education proposals should be addressed separately.

    Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, has said the state, which scores low in many national rankings, is in dire need of education reform.

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