West Virginia school groups OK possible work action over education bill
PARKERSBURG — School personnel from around West Virginia overwhelmingly voted to authorize their state associations to call for a work action if needed over the education bill in the Legislature, officials said Saturday.
Representatives of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association met Saturday in Flatwoods where the statewide authorization vote by members earlier this week was tabulated and the result announced.
“The result of the vote was not surprising because SB 451 will determine the trajectory of West Virginia’s public education system. Every day, our educators put the needs of West Virginia kids first. Their well-being, quality of academic education, and the types of programs provided will be directly effected by this bill,” Adena Barnette, a member of the board of the West Virginia Education Association and president of the Jackson County Education Association, said.
“The unity shown by all three educator’s unions is unprecedented in our state’s history. Leaders are working together to represent the concerns of the entire public education community,” she said. “We know what’s at stake here. Unity is the only way to defeat SB 451 and to save our public schools.”
Union leaders Saturday didn’t say what type of action may be taken.
The vote does not mean a work stoppage is in the near future, Bruce Boston, president of the Wood County Education Association, said.
“This simply gives our state leaders a tool to use in working with our legislature,” he said. “We are encouraged by the changes made to Senate Bill 451.”
Senate Bill 451 was passed by the Senate on Monday. The House Education Committee on Friday significantly amended the bill.
It was sent to the Finance Committee. Two public hearings were scheduled for 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday in the chambers of the House of Delegates.
Teachers and school service employees in 2018 went on strike for nine days.
“The results of the statewide authorization vote remind us that educators do not trust all legislators to create law that best serves our students and employees,” said Greg Merritt, president of the American Federation of Teachers in Wood County.
“We recognize that input from educators is needed, and appreciate the upcoming opportunity to share our thoughts in a public hearing on Monday,” he said. “Education reform must be led by the folks who are doing the work. We are the experts, and our voices must be heard.”
Merritt said employees care about the students and “any action we take is for their ultimate benefit.”
“The future of our great state relies on what happens now. No one wants to see instruction to be hindered. Any decision about work stoppage will occur only after much thought and discussion,” he said. “This statewide authorization vote allows appropriate action to occur at the appropriate time. It is clear that what is best for our students is to support public education and the employees of that institution.”