Break up huge education bill

The proposed Omnibus education bill should be broken into separate bills and debated on the merits of each bill. By grouping numerous educational issues together in a 137-page document and rushing the bill through committees, someone is attempting to hide those portions that are damaging to our education system.

Some parts of the bill are beneficial, including raising the pay for teachers and school support personnel, and allowing employees to use unused sick days to pay for health insurance during retirement. However, portions of the bill take us down the road of privatization of our education system. That path is likely to lead to the further deterioration of West Virginia public school systems that need more funding and better support, not less of both.

Parts of the bill are designed to damage public education by draining resources from public schools for charter schools, religious and secular private schools, and homeschooling. Through educational savings accounts, parents could receive 75 percent of the student’s tax expenditures to use for tuition and fees at private or home school programs. Clearly, shifting funds away from schools will damage already overtaxed school systems. And without extensive oversight, these ESAs may be ripe for misuse.

Under the propose educational bill, charter schools would become legalized and freed from regulation regarding curriculum and personnel. Separate from county school boards, charter schools would have their own governing boards, which may choose to have unelected members. Taxpayer dollars would be used for a second tier of education absent accountability to the taxpayers or to the officials West Virginians elect to oversee the educational system.

Home owners could see their school boards vote to increase their regular levy property tax rates up to the limit set in the bill. Currently, school board members can vote to increase the levy property tax rate, but it is up to the voters to approve. It would also allow county school boards to pay teachers in different locations more as well as paying math teachers more than teachers in other subjects. Would disparate pay actually lead to better educational experiences for our students, or would it serve to disadvantage one groups of educators (and their students) in favor of their peers?

Sadly, class size for grades one through six would increase from 25 students per teacher to as high as 31 students per teacher under this omnibus bill.

Kim Williams

Executive Director of the Wood County Democratic Party