West Virginia, like many other states, is trying to reform a failing education system.
On the night of February 18, 2019, West Virginia teachers union leaders announced that teachers would strike on the following day to oppose Senate Bill 451.
Senate Bill 451 was a comprehensive omnibus education reform bill that provided benefits supported by both sides of the aisle. However, the teacher unions were successful in shutting the bill down.
As a state that is ranked 45th in the nation in education, West Virginia is in desperate need of reform. The teacher unions within the state staunchly oppose any education reform— with the exception of increases in teacher’s pay.
Fortunately for West Virginia students, Governor Jim Justice has called for a special legislative session this summer that will address the failed education system in the state. This special session will attempt to fix the educational system and allow for lawmakers to focus on education reform and preventing teachers from taking valuable instructional time away from West Virginian students.
Charter schools, one of the options being considered, provide for competition among education that would require public schools to improve or be left behind. Encouraging teachers to negotiate on their own, instead of being held in contempt of the union, is a necessary step to give teachers the autonomy to control their own careers.
In the state of West Virginia, the average teacher salary is $45,701, while the average household income is $42,019. In 2017, West Virginia had the fourth lowest cost of living in the nation. Teacher pay, particularly in West Virginia, should be a non-starter.
While teacher unions such as the West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers shot Senate Bill 451 down, West Virginia’s current education system continue to set up West Virginia students for failure. During the 2018 legislative session, important legislation was halted as a result of the teacher strike, costing students nine days of instruction or five percent of the entire school year.
How can teacher unions like the American Federation of Teachers advocate for a better student experience while simultaneously being resistant to change in a state that is nearly dead last in education?
The teacher strikes in West Virginia and across the nation have not been about improving the educational experience of students. These teacher strikes are trying to address the problem of inconsistencies in teacher’s pay the wrong way. Rather than holding the taxpayers and children of the state hostage, teachers could be negotiating for higher contracts at the end of the year by honoring the contract they signed for the current year.
A failed education system in West Virginia is a large contributing factor in why the state is ranked so low in every other measure. West Virginia could be doing so much more for the future of its students.
The West Virginia teacher strike and goals of teacher unions are not about the students. Teacher unions and strikes are the anchor holding the education system back from performing to its potential.
Other states need to learn from West Virginia’s mistakes. Listening to corrupt and self-interested teacher unions about how to reform the educational system only perpetuates a failed system and disadvantages those who need it most.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.