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Education bills concern WVEA president in Charleston

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Education bills concern WVEA president in Charleston
By MetroNews Staff

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The bill which would give West Virginia teachers and school service workers a payraise has cleared its first hurdle in Charleston.  The K-12 Education proposed by Governor Jim Justice bill won late night approval Wednesday in the House Finance Committee with the pay improvement intact.   It’s unknown how long that will stand however as the bill goes to the House Finance Committee.

“We want the governor’s bill that gave the pay raise to teachers,” said West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee speaking on MetroNews Talkline. “So absolutely, that part of it is really good.”

Other bills aren’t as exciting to Lee and even he realized during the conversation finding funding for a pay raise in this budget climate was going to be difficult.

“There are other bills that give us grave concern when you look at funding,” said Lee. “We’re down to 16 days left and we have to come up with a budget that makes sense and can pass.  I don’t know how they’re going to together and do that.”

He isn’t alone.  Nobody seems to know exactly how that’s going to happen.   Lee said the bill most concerning is in the Senate which would cut K-12 education in each county by five percent.   To Lee, cuts aren’t the answer, at least not entirely the answer.

“You have 13 counties right now that are running close on the deficit watch,” he explained. “On top of that you say, ‘We’re going to cut you five percent more.’ You’re just devastating school systems there.”

Lee said larger counties might be able to absorb the cut, but it would come at the expense of other programs like the matching funds to build a new school.  Some counties are already lacking enough qualified teachers and he reasoned allowing counties to have more flexibility in the spending of state formula money wouldn’t help since personnel is 80 percent of the budget and it’s the first thing they would cut.

Ultimately, Lee said a compromise is necessary but he isn’t sure where a compromises can be found.  The Governor and legislative leaders seem dug in on their previously staked positions.

“If those cuts are in education, I don’t know there’s a compromise there,” said Lee. “When you’re destroying the basis of what your state Constitution says which is to provide a free and basic education for every child.  I don’t know how you compromise on that.”