WVEA's Lee on Boone: 'You can't balance it totally on employees'

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WVEA's Lee on Boone: 'You can't balance it totally on employees'
By Chris Lawrence, WV MetroNews

MADISON, W.Va. — The Boone County School System will open the 2016-17 school year with more than 40 job vacancies.

The county saw a flurry of resignations just before Monday’s deadline for the 2015-16 school year contract, most of them are attributed to cuts in the budget which cost teachers around $4,000 in their annual pay along with dental and vision benefits on their insurance coverage.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee predicted the exit and said the county is now reaping what has been sown.

“You can’t balance it totally on the backs of employees,” said Lee. “You need to have everyone come to the table and come up with a solution that was fair to everyone.”

The county board of education made the cuts amid pressure from the state Board of Education which threatened a takeover of the local system if the changes weren’t made.

“You can’t blame the teachers for leaving,” Lee said. “Not only will they lose four to five thousand dollars in pay plus the benefits, but if this is a long term situation it could affect their retirement.”

Boone County and other school systems in the coalfields were already struggling to attract qualified teachers for math and science positions.   The cuts will only make that worse, according to Lee.

“It’s not only going to be math and science positions, it’s going to be elementary positions.  It’s going to be phys. ed positions which used to be unheard of,” he said. “This is going to make it difficult to attract people in all the subject areas.”

The county is struggling with the steep decline in coal revenue.  Lee said the situation will require creative solutions which don’t place all of the burden on employees.

“What I’m hoping is we can come up with a solution that people can all live with,” Lee said. “The only way we’re going to do that I guess is either through legal action or people coming to the table with common sense and figuring it all out.”