By Victor Skinner
CHARLESTON, W. Va. – In response to an education audit that suggests numerous logical reforms for West Virginia’s public school system, the state teachers union issued its own report to lawmakers this week.
And what does the union report say? The West Virginia Education Association isn’t interested in any of the major reforms proposed in the audit conducted for the state last year by Public Works LLC.
The WVEA opposes merit pay, student performance used in teacher evaluations, minimizing the influence of teacher seniority, adding additional school days to the academic year, using Teach for America instructors, and giving principals more authority to manage their teaching staffs, the Charleston Gazette reports.
According to WVEA President Dale Lee, the only reform recommendations the union agrees with are suggestions to give local school boards more control, and to increase scholarships and loan forgiveness programs to recruit new teachers, the newspaper reports.
“It seems all the major things mentioned in the audit, all those things it said to do, you’re against,” House Minority Leader Tim Armstead said to Lee, according to the Gazette.
The WVEA claims to have based their reaction on a series of educator forums it hosted across the state last fall. Lee claims that most WVEA members roundly rejected proposed reforms, and many suggested pursuing the types of ineffective remedies that unions have been pushing for years.
According to the WVEA, instead of paying educators more for teaching high-need subjects like math and science, all teachers should get a raise. Instead of adding school days to the year, school officials should clamp down on student absenteeism. Instead of using student performance in teacher evaluations, the state should reduce the number of standardized tests. Instead of using bright Teach for America recruits, schools should reduce class sizes (which of course means hiring more teachers) and increase parental involvement, the WVEA contends.
In other words, the problems with public schools have nothing to do with the teachers union, or the lack of accountability its members enjoy due to ridiculous contact protections.
Does anybody really believe that?
West Virginia’s parents and lawmakers need to look past the WVEA’s self-serving agenda and connect directly with the professionals in the classrooms to get a true idea of what teachers need to succeed. We have a hunch that the union’s report aligns better with its leadership’s political positions than the opinions of everyday educators.
In the meantime, lawmakers should press forward with the student-focused reforms suggested in the education audit, because most have proven to increase academic performance for students in many other states.
What’s best for students should be the bottom line.