MASON COUNTY — Teachers across the state stood together for a statewide work stoppage on Tuesday in opposition of the Education Senate Bill 451 (SB 451) and though the West Virginia House of Delegates tabled the bill indefinitely, the work stoppage will continue on into Wednesday.
Jack Cullen, Mason County superintendent, reported Mason County Schools, will remain closed Wednesday for staff and students due to the ongoing work stoppage.
At the last regularly scheduled Mason County Board of the Education meeting, board members President Jared Billings, Vice President Meagan Bonecutter, Ashley Cossin, Dale Shobe, and Rhonda Tennant approved a resolution opposing SB 451.
The resolution stated, “The Mason County Board of Education opposes SB 451, the Omnibus Education Bill, and urges the West Virginia Legislature to pass the Governor’s pay raise bill and engage West Virginia’s education stakeholders in developing meaningful education reforms necessary to improve educational outcomes for all children served by West Virginia’s public schools.”
Cullen explained though a few sections of the bill were not so bad, the entirety of the bill is an attack on the public school system. The notion of creating charter schools would take away not only child count funds, but also reduce staff. Though students could have the option to go to charter schools or private schools rather than public schools, there is no literature supporting a significant difference in education for the students at charter schools or private schools and taking funding from the public school system will only hurt public schools, added Cullen.
Mason County teachers also shared with the Register their views of the work stoppage and SB 451.
“We voted to give our leadership the decision and this is the decision they told us, to come out today because of the house bill 451,” said Point Pleasant Primary School kindergarten teacher Brenda Saunders. “It’s still got all the charter schools and the ESAs (Education Savings Accounts) and they’re putting everything in that will be detrimental to public education. We really don’t want charter schools, anything that’s going to take money from public education and hurt our kids we don’t want in a bill. We’re willing to give up our pay raise if it’s going to hurt our kids.”
Stephanie Morrow, Point Pleasant Intermediate School fifth grade teacher, commented, “We do not agree with Senate Bill 451, it’s not good for our students, it’s not good for the state of West Virginia.”
“We disagree with that Senate Bill as a whole, there’s not a piece of it that we agree with, they slid that raise in there and there are other bills that have that raise,” added Annette Cook, Point Pleasant Intermediate School sixth grade teacher.
“They want to increase our classroom sizes while taking away our funding,” said Morrow.
Cook added, “One of the scariest aspects of that to me is there will be no state regulations to take care of our kids.”
“We want them to write the bill for school improvement with collaboration with educators, people who actually know the system, know the children of our state. They wrote this bill without consulting anyone who’s in the education system,” said Morrow.
Cullen shared the same work stoppage guide approved by the Mason County Board of Education used during last year’s nine-day work stoppage is being utilized for this work stoppage. Tuesday’s work stoppage day will not have to be made up by staff and students as Cullen will be able to use equivalent time to cover it, Wednesday’s work stoppage day is to be decided.
Erin Perkins is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.