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In defense of teacher unions

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By Heather Deluca-Nestor, published in The Beckley register-Herald

I felt compelled to offer an alternative perspective to the recent article (“A call for civility in teacher unions,” July 3) by state senator Rollan Roberts that states that the “present behavior of the teacher and service personnel unions behavior has been reprehensible, vindictive, retaliatory, and hypocritical.”

Two years ago I was elected President of the Monongalia County Education Association, an 8th grade science teacher at South Middle School, a cheerleading coach, and was beginning my National Board renewal. Most importantly, I am the mom of two little girls, then ages 2 and 6. Little did I know my life and the person I was would be completely changed because duty called. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about how politics really works, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Teachers, service personnel and most importantly our union tried to play by legislative rules, that changed on a daily basis to promote an agenda from out of state interests. As we were teaching in our classrooms, driving buses, preparing meals, making sure buildings were well kept for our students, as well as other duties, we followed the legislative process while doing our jobs.

 

We called and emailed our legislators, WVEA set up a lobby schedule where county representatives would speak daily at the capitol on our behalf. We were hopeful that our legislators would listen to the teachers and service professionals. After all, we are the ones who know and love our kids. Thank you to the legislators who fought for all students.

Let me tell you about my union bosses. I watched last year as my president was escorted by a bodyguard yet answered the phone that night when I called crying because teachers and service professionals across the state were angry and not going back to school. His words were, “How can we fix this?”

Unions look at all perspectives. They have insight meetings with stakeholders, make sure we maintain credibility with superintendents who were and continue to be an integral part of 55 Strong. They are mindful of public support and try to minimize the damage to our students education all while being driven by members. He has declined pay raises because WVEA employees haven’t received one since 2005, until this year. He has traveled around the state and been our voice as he served on the PEIA task force and did not miss a single hearing or educational forum. He also got a whopping 60 seconds to speak at public hearings.

WVEA staff lived at the capitol during regular and special sessions. Credit is always given to the teachers and service professionals who started the Red for Ed movement and watched it spread like wildfire.

WVEA is working for our students, teachers and service personnel every single day only to be vilified from all angles. We fight because we know the implications of HB 206.

 

Legislators should count their blessings that our leadership has acted in the best interest of all involved as some of our members do not feel we have been forceful enough. I have seen this organization lead with integrity, dedication, perseverance, compassion, and humility and am proud to be a part of WVEA.

One lesson our Legislature has taught educators is to follow the money. We certainly know how it feels to have our livelihoods attacked. There is still not a permanent fix to PEIA, our resources continue to go out of state with little to show, tax breaks for large corporations continue, however our Legislature passed SB 622 which increases campaign contributions from those very corporations.

Our economy and infrastructure is dead last – ranked 50th (Forbes) and people are leaving WV at an alarming rate. There’s your status quo!

The door has been opened for dark money to begin the privatization of public education. You didn’t listen to 88 percent of your constituents but we all know money talks.