West Virginians join thousands of others in Boston for NEA meeting
By Shauna Johnson, WV MetroNews
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The 2018 budget in West Virginia which will be in effect with the start of the new fiscal year on Saturday does not include the average two percent pay raise for classroom teachers Governor Jim Justice had proposed
“I’m disappointed that more of an emphasis wasn’t focused on public education,” Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, told MetroNews when asked about the overall $4.2 billion spending plan from the Legislature.
“Their decision was just to make cuts and when you cut things like they did — like the Innovation Zones and the technology specialists in the schools — what you’re saying is that ‘We devalue public education.'”
Investments in education are important at both the state and federal levels, he said.
Lee is in Boston, Mass. through July 5 for the National Education Association Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly.
Implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, racial and social justice advocacy and the school vouchers proposed in the Trump Administration’s budget under U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos were expected to dominate discussions.
“It scares me to death,” Lee said of the proposal to spend $1.4 billion in the new federal budget to expand school choice programs.
As proposed, the expansion includes vouchers for private and religious schools among others funded with reductions to federal aid for public schools, according to budget documents.
Eventually, federal school choice funding could climb to $20 billion.
President Donald Trump has often said his goal is to shrink the federal role in education.
“It scares me to think that you move away from the needs that we have in West Virginia, being such a rural state, and take those important federal dollars away and (instead) look at ways to really destroy public education,” Lee said.
Public education is vital for students, he argued.
“We must have the opportunities for every student to succeed and every student to have the option to really change the course of their life and public education is the great equalizer in all that. Anything that you do to take dollars away from public education hurts our children.”
Each year, the National Education Association Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly brings together 8,000 teachers, school bus drivers, guidance counselors, education support professionals and other school staff from across the United States.
Lee has been attending for the past 28 years.