We certainly are being driven in reverse when it comes to West Virginia public education. During my last 10 years in the field, we received one 2 percent raise. The underfunded PEIA charged more and offered less, reaching a crisis in 2018.
Now, according to some politicians, we have money for charter schools and education savings accounts to pay private and out-of-state operators. In the spring of 2018, proponents could’ve conducted hearings around the state, but waited until they wasted much of this winter’s regular session with a 140-page behemoth — Senate Bill 451. No problem. We now have another whopper, the Student Success Act — SB 1039. Taxpayers are expected to pay for special sessions. Senate leaders in the effort are smart people who’ve learned the legislative system and their talking points, but I don’t know where their educational expertise comes from.
We are told that West Virginia must do something about education because results are terrible, usually followed by a few statistics. The public must have complete facts about student performance, health and socio-economics. I hear blame placed on classroom teachers when we don’t even have basic information about the stresses on our state. Where does West Virginia place nationally on SNAP assistance, children in single-parent homes or with grandparents, foster care, drug abuse, unemployment and so on? I bet we’re way up there. The DHHR would have those figures. Where are test results low? In rural or distressed areas with high unemployment? The state Department of Education has the statistics.
How much do the charter operators and ESAs take for each student? Which ones are selected? How are charters doing in Ohio, Michigan, California and elsewhere? Where are the national figures? Who is pushing the privatization move here — the so-called West Virginia Chamber of Commerce with how many out-of-state corporations? The Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch mega-billionaires?
With the track record and absence of facts from those pushing the sweeping remake of our public education system, I am beyond insulted. Do you choose sides or buy anything with no data? Why are there not 10 to 12 separate bills?
Education is our biggest expense and obligation to West Virginia’s young people. We cannot accept unqualified people, with no information, promoting a bundle that looks like a boondoggle. Folks, we need facts and must know who is sponsoring this agenda. Success? Prosperity?
The Student Success Act sure looks like a big sales job on a used stretch limo. The upholstery may be great, but it hogs gas and the engine might give out after 10,000 miles. Don’t buy it. Tell them no. We must demand real information and solutions in specific, targeted legislation. Please stand up for our kids and tax dollars.