CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Public school teachers and school personnel aired their grievances Tuesday night at a legislative task force meeting at Capital High.
At the heart of Tuesday night’s meeting was chapter 18 and 18A in the West Virginia School Laws Annotated text and school personnel were invited to share their ideas with legislators on the task force.
Instead, teachers and school personnel made clear they’re dealing with problems in their classrooms like they never have before during these last 18 months, and they’re emotionally and physically exhausted.
They pleaded with the legislators at the meeting to not encroach on any more of their workplace rights.
“One thousand pages of law govern and regulate teachers in the classroom, people don’t realize that that’s just in West Virginia, that doesn’t even include all the local stuff here in Kanawha and Putnam counties; that’s just the state law and I think if we reduce that, we simplify that, we make it easier for the average West Virginian to understand, it’s going to improve educational outcome,” said Delegate Joshua Higginbotham (R-Putnam).
While Higginbotham may want to simplify the chapter, the teachers, coaches, special education teachers, and other school personnel in the audience said “not so fast.”
“We’re going to take a scalpel to 18A, but we’ve got dead bus drivers, dead cooks, dead secretaries, dead service people. I’ve had 10 die this year of COVID,” said Joe White, a long-time custodian and a union leader.
Teacher Erin Ballard said never in her 17 years as an educator has she been more stressed out.
“And I fear that if you begin to alter things that are in this policy, such as class size, planning periods and duty-free lunch, even more teachers are going to leave the profession,” she said.
Some of the teachers invited the legislators in the room to shadow them for a day to see all of the work they are now having to do.
“And you’re giving everything you have and you’re doing it during Covid and you’re teaching in person, and you’re doing it virtually and you’re quarantining,” said another teacher.
Delegate Caleb Hanna (R-Nicholas) was one of the legislators in the audience.
Hanna is a proponent of school choice and the author of the Hope Scholarship bill.
He says they just want to help the public teachers by repealing some of the outdated code.
“One of the comments we heard tonight is we have 100 different personalities coming through the door and those are 100 different students and I think that’s a very true statement; every student learns so differently and for the longest time we’ve had a one size fits all approach in education,” he said.