My 7-year-old often tries to get her way whatever way she can when she really, really wants something. Her determination is sometimes admirable, but mainly it’s an exercise in my patience and sanity. Over and over again, she asks. Sometimes she yells. Sometimes she plays tricks to get her way.
It seems as though the Republicans looked at my daughter’s playbook when they wasted taxpayer dollars to cram a corporate agenda West Virginians overwhelmingly rejected through the Legislature, especially the part in which they had to change the rules of the game to win.
On Monday, the Senate took up and passed House Bill 206. While Republicans were hoping the Omnibus Bill 3.0 would be the charm, many students, teachers, parents and residents are wondering just what the heck happened. How did we get here when more than 80 percent of West Virginians at public forums were opposed to charter schools? How did we get here when leadership told legislators they would been provided individual bills to evaluate for education betterment?
Well, here’s what I saw from the back row of the Legislature in the People’s House. I saw educators continue to fight for what’s best for their students. I saw parents that attended meetings around the state ignored. I saw the legislative process, once again, manipulated for a piece of legislation that couldn’t make it through the process as is, so the process was changed. I saw members pass a bill that dabbles into the land of unconstitutionality with little regard for our state’s most sacred document. I witnessed a public hearing in which the vast majority spoke against the bill.
How good can this Omnibus 3.0 be when it couldn’t stand the normal legislative process test? Good enough for our kids? I doubt it. Make no mistake, there are good things in this bill, which is why we in the House of Delegates were excited to have the Senate’s massive bill broken down into digestible pieces — to stand or fall on their own.
I am proud our chamber voted to increase funding for mental health professionals in our schools as the drug epidemic continues to destroy families, homes and communities. I am proud and so thankful we as a body were able to help the governor deliver on his campaign promise on a teacher pay raise.
But it didn’t have to be like this. We held the good hostage to the bad, just like my daughter does.
We failed our state and students when we hesitated to mandate smaller classes and sided with Betsy DeVos to just study the well-documented fact the students perform much better with smaller classes. We failed our students, teachers, parents and taxpayers when we OK’d removing much-needed bricks in our public schools’ infrastructure to build new charter schools.
The thing is, here in West Virginia, we used to listen to one another; we used to respect each other; we used to value honest, hard work and everyone having a chance to improve their circumstances with sweat equity.
But this bill picks winners and losers among our kids — it only benefits the most affluent West Virginians.
Gov. Justice should veto House Bill 206 so the Legislature can deliver an education betterment bill worthy of West Virginia — one that puts its people’s needs above those of out-of-state corporations.