Authorization votes to be gathered by teacher leaders at Flatwoods meeting Saturday

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By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

FLATWOODS, W.Va. — The leadership of the two teacher unions in West Virginia will meet in Flatwoods Saturday to discuss a unified response in connection with the education reform bill working its way through the legislature.

County leaders of the West Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia have been gathering authorization votes from individual teachers. The results will be tallied Saturday.

“Everything is on the table,” WVEA President Dale Lee said Friday on MetroNews “Talkline.” “That’s what we’ll be discussing Saturday–everything’s on the table.”

The unions could vote to take any number of actions, AFT-WV President Fred Albert said.

“One day walkout or an extended walkout is always on the table. The walkouts are our absolute last option,” Albert said.

Albert and Lee have been at the state capitol monitoring the work on the bill, SB 451. this week by the House of Delegates. They’ve been involved in the discussion. They weren’t involved with the bill as it moved through the state Senate.

The bill no longer includes several things teachers were upset about including a paycheck protection provision and a non-severability clause. The House Education has also narrowed the scope of possible charter schools.

The bill includes:

– Promised pay raises for educators;
– Educational savings accounts in specific cases;
– Banking of teacher personal days for retirement credit;
– Pay flexibility for in-demand areas;
– And county allowances for levy rate maximums.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw said Friday the bill has undergone major changes since it left the Senate. He said he hopes educators notice.

“This bill is a win for everyone. Sadly we have gotten distracted by a couple of provisions that arguably will have limited application in our state to begin with,” Hanshaw said.

Albert said Friday the bill has improved.

“It’s much better than it was. It’s getting a place where we feel it’s better,” Albert said.

Lee is still not convinced.

“It’s horrible right now. What we would prefer is that you would take these things up individually,” Lee said.

The teacher groups had a similar meeting in Flatwoods at around this time last year. A nine-day work stoppage would follow. Teachers were joined by school service personnel.