Archives for category: West Virginia

I wanted to go to Charleston, West Virginia, to thank the leaders of the Red4Ed Teachers Strike of 2018. Jay O’Neal of the NEA local and Fred Albert of the AFT local made it happen. I spoke on February 22, the second anniversary of the strike.

The teachers themselves were amazed by what they had done. They were outraged back then when the cost of their health insurance reduced their already meager take home pay. They met, count by county, they organized, they eventually realized they would be ignored unless they went out on strike.

Their strike wasn’t just one county or district, but the entire state. West Virginia is a right to work state. They could be fired for striking. But every superintendent closed every school and every school employee, including support staff and bus drivers, struck too.

At one point the union leaders announced a deal that included a 5% raise for teachers but not other staff, and the teachers sent them back to demand the same raise for everyone.

They won the raise but governor promised only a “commission” to study the onerous burden of health care costs. They are still waiting. The Governor, Jim Justice, is the only billionaire in the state, and he doesn’t know what it means to live paycheck to paycheck. He was elected as a Democrat, but six months after he won in 2016, he switched parties and embraced Trump.

After the raises they won, teachers’ starting pay is $37,000, and the top pay for a teacher with many years of experience and a doctorate is about $65,000 (those greedy teachers!!).

West Virginia is a poor state that has suffered through a dire opioid crisis. It has a storied history of miners’ strikes. The people I met love their state, loves it’s mountains and folkways, and are fighting for its children and its future.

The state voted for Trump, and no, he has not revived the coal industry. He has already forgotten the people of West Virginia.

Here is an account of my talk to the leaders of Red4Ed, which launched a national movement.

I met a vigorous young man who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, named Steve Smith. He explained something I never understood. Why do poor people vote for people who lie to them? He said the people of West Virginia were lied to by Democrats for decades. So they decided it was time to try the other party, which also lied to them. The winning ticket, he believes, is the one that appeals to independents and recognizes that most people don’t trust any politician to tell the truth.

A teacher added that a large part of the voting public will go for anyone who promises to stop abortion and gays. Another teacher said a large part of the voters were devoted to their guns. During the eight years that a Obama was President, many gun owners stocked up on AR-15 assault weapons because they wanted to be ready when the military came for their guns.

Seems the legislature cares more about abortion, guns, and gays than their own children or their future.

Billionaire Governor Jim Justice was elected governor of West Virginia as a Democrat but after election, he switched parties with Trump by his side.

Raw Story reports that Governor Justice, up for re-election, has stiffed hundreds of former workers in his coal mines.

Raymond Dye had a buildup of blood behind his left eye that prevented him from seeing. David Polk had an abnormal heartbeat, and his wife had high cholesterol. Roger Wriston’s wife had a bad back.

All the men had worked for a collection of coal companies owned by Gov. Jim Justice and his family, which had pledged to provide health insurance after the miners retired. Last year, though, the retirees learned that those firms had stopped paying their premiums. And as a result, their coverage had been terminated. Polk skipped doctor appointments.

“I know that waiting on medical treatment can do irreparable harm to my health,” he later said in a legal filing, “but I cannot afford to pay the bills.”

The expenses for the aging retirees, compounded by decades of work in southern West Virginia’s coal mines, were often costly. At one point, Wriston and his wife ended up with a bill for $12,367.76, another court filing said.

“I don’t think it’s fair what they’re doing to someone who worked their whole life,” Wriston’s wife, Tammy, said in an interview.

About 150 retired miners around West Virginia were making a similar discovery. So the United Mine Workers of America, the same miners’ union that had endorsed Justice’s election as governor in 2016, went to court last year and asked a federal judge to force the Justice companies to pay.

Lawyers for Justice’s companies initially opposed the union’s request for such an order, arguing the miners had not followed proper procedures for appealing a denial of health-benefit claims. Then, the companies settled, promising to clear up the matter and ensure benefits were provided.

Jan Resseger gives thanks for the teachers and other educators who boldly walked out and went out on strike over the past two years. So do I.

These courageous educators challenged the national narrative that had been so deviously cultivated by billionaires and Wall Street about “failing schools” and “bad teachers,” in an effort to destroy public faith in public schools and promote privatization of public funds.

Thanks to #Red4Ed, the new and realistic narrative is about crowded classrooms, crumbling schools, underpaid teachers, and schools without nurses, social workers, or librarians.

#Red4Ed said, “No more!”

The first walkout was in West Virginia in the spring of 2018. That walkout closed every school in the state and unleashed a wave of strikes and walkouts that continues now.

Reading about the West Virginia walkout inspired me to start writing a book that will be published January 21, called SLAYING GOLIATH. I will be in West Virginia on February 22 to meet those brave teachers and thank them for what they have done for all of us.

 

When teachers in West Virginia launched the Education Spring of 2018, one of their demands was “no charter schools.” The state’s public schools are already underfunded, and public school teachers had low pay compared to nearby states. The teachers understood that the addition of charter schools would mean fewer resources for public schools. Given that West Virginia is a largely rural state, there was no need or demand for a parallel school system of private contractors.

The legislature and governor agreed to the teschers’ demands but proceeded to double cross them by passing a charter law.

Charter advocates were thrilled. Another conquest for privatization.

But now charter advocates are “perturbed.” In fact, they are truly dismayed and having a hissy fit. They are downright ticked off.

It seems West Virginia law allows only school districts to authorize charters.

That is very very bad in charter land because districts are unlikely to welcome entrepreneurs, amateurs, and corporate raiders to tap their resources and cherrypick the students they want.

The National Alliance for Public [sic] Charter Schools won’t provide any assistance because they are so displeased. Its crack TFA alum, Emily Schultz, expressed her displeasure with West Virginia law; she previously was in charge of charters for the state of Alabama (which has a grand total of two charter schools).

Imagine that! A local school district having the right to decide who can open on their turf and poach their students!

 

The West Virginia Republican members of the House rammed through an omnibus education bill that authorized charters for the first time in the state. Every Democrat opposed the bill, and seven Republicans broke ranks to oppose it. It passed 51-47.

The West Virginia House of Delegates passed Wednesday its education omnibus bill (House Bill 206), after replacing its cap of 10 charter schools statewide with a cap of three until July 1, 2023.

But the bill would allow three more charter schools every three years after that.

The number allowed as the years roll by would be unlimited. If the bill ultimately becomes law, these would be the state’s first charter schools.

The final passage vote, after 11 p.m. Wednesday, was 51-47, largely with Republicans for it and Democrats against.

The House then recessed its side of the special legislative session on education. The state Senate, which is also led by Republicans, will now have to decide what to do with the bill.

Both chambers must agree on the same version to send it to Republican Gov. Jim Justice for his signature or veto.

The deal was strongly opposed by teachers even though it included pay raises and new money for counselors and other support staff.

West Virginia’s teachers struck twice, with opposition to charters one of their demands.

Governor Jim Justice pledged to block charters. Let’s see if he betrays the teachers as the Legislature did. After the bill passed, he congratulated the House, so a veto is unlikely. 

West Virginia is a rural state. It does not need two parallel publicly funded school systems. It does not need charter schools. It needs investment in public schools, which are underfunded.

Betsy DeVos must be sipping champagne.

 

 

Jan Resseger writes an in-depth account of the ongoing battle by teachers in West Virginia to keep charters and vouchers out of their state. 

They struck twice and they continue to fight.

The Republican majority in the legislature is determined to introduce privatization, despite the poor results in other states.

The Republican leadership have added provisions to the pending legislation to prevent walkouts in the future.

We learned on Tuesday that a poison pill had been added to the Senate’s omnibus bill—to ban strikes by teachers: “Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump says an anti-strike provision was amended into an omnibus education bill….  The amendment also says no county superintendent may close school in anticipation of a strike.  And the amendment says that if a strike causes school to be closed then that school can’t participate in extracurricular activities… Democrats in the Senate argued that the provision was retaliatory for the strikes of the past two years.”

What happens next will be decided by the House and Governor Jim Justice.

Politico Morning Education reports:

BANNING TEACHER STRIKES?: West Virginia’s GOP-led Senate approved the ban on teacher strikes 17-14 as an amendment to broad education reform legislation that DeVos urged the lawmakers to pass. The amendment was approved with “heavy opposition” from Democrats, the Associated Press reported.

— GOP Sen. Charles Trump, who sponsored the amendment, said it’s meant to keep schools running and not as retaliation for two teacher walkouts since last year, according to the AP. But Fred Albert, the president of the state’s American Federation of Teachers chapter, told POLITICO Pro “it’s pure retribution, retaliation.”

—”Already, we don’t have collective bargaining. It’s a right-to-work state,” Albert said, acknowledging that work stoppages in the past have been “truly illegal.” “This is just I think another stab at trying to punish us, making the law perhaps a little more severe with such language,” but he said such measures aren’t likely to float in the House.

— The chamber will continue its work today on education legislation, which would allow for the creation of state charter school and education savings account programs that are opposed by teachers unions who have been protesting at the state Capitol. The GOP-led House will reconvene on June 17.

— In February, the unions waged a two-day strike over a contentious education bill that would have brought education savings accounts and charter schools to West Virginia. The state started the wave of teacher strikes in 2018, helping create a #RedforEd teacher strike movement that continues today.

— DeVos’s push for school choice runs directly counter to what the state’s teachers unions want. She tweeted on Friday, “West Virginia has an opportunity to improve education for all & put the needs of students first. Looking forward to seeing bold moves to offer robust options like charter schools & ESAs and support great teachers. Let’s get it done.”

 

Teachers in West Virginia stunned the nation in February 2018 by going out on strike and staying out while demanding a pay raise and a commitment from the Governor and Legislature not to support charter schools and privatization. Theywon a pay raise and they had a commitment from Governor Jim Justice to veto charter legislation. Justice is a billionaire, the richest man in the state.

A year later, the Legislature was ready to abandon its promise not to introduce privatization. The teachers struck again.

Jan Resseger has the story here. 

The Legislature wants to put the camel’s nose under the tent. Just the nose. Promise. Cross my heart.

Don’t believe them. They are lying. Once the privatization starts, the camel gets into the tent. The tiny voucher program becomes a massive voucher program. The experimental charter becomes a major lobbying industry.

Fight for public education.

 

Peter Greene has a rapier sharp wit, which he wields so deftly that the object of his attention has been beheaded without knowing what happened. If you want to see him at his best, read this mystery: Who is murdering Charter Schools? 

Teachers?

Unions?

Lobbyists?

If you live in the real world, the people fighting privatization are heroic defenders of the commonweal, protecting the public interest against the Waltons, the Koch brothers, DeVos, and other private interests.

Hi, Hoppy,

A friend sent me the column you wrote about the stalemate in West Virginia over school choice. 

I would like to help you out.

The first thing you should know is that charter schools are NOT public schools. They call themselves public schools to get public money, but that doesn’t make them public schools. Might as well call Princeton University a public college or Boeing a public utility just because they get public money. Charter schools are private contractors with private boards of trustees that do not hold public meetings. Public schools have an elected school board or a board composed of people appointed by an elected official.

As this study shows, when charter schools open, the money to pay for them is deducted from public schools. The public schools lose not only the tuition for each student, but are left with “stranded costs.” If 10% of the students leave, you can’t stop heating or cooling the building by 10%, you can’t cut back on transportation or other expenses or the principal’s salary by 10%. What the public schools must do is lay off teachers, eliminate programs, cut the arts, and increase class sizes. So the vast majority of students pay a high price so 10% can choose to attend a charter that may be a fraud or may close in a year or two.

You suggested that Ohio charter schools are an example of success.

Actually, two-thirds of the charter schools in Ohio were rated either D or F by the State Department of Education. And their enrollment is declining as parents realize that they are not better than real public schools.

1. Decline in number of charters. See Fig 3, p. 9. 2013-2014 base year (395). See 2017-2018 academic year 340. http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Community-Schools/Annual-Reports-on-Ohio-Community-Schools/2017-2018-Community-Schools-Annual-Report.pdf.aspx?lang=en-US
2. Number of charters closed – At this page, click on the third section under Schools heading for link – Schools that Have Suspended Operations (no separate URL for this Excel sheet) http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Community-Schools  Last line = 293. Subtract heading line = 292 schools closed.
3. Decline in Charter Enrollments – 2017-2018 Annual Report, Fig 2, p. 8. 2013-2014 Base year = 120, 893 compared to 2017-2018 – 104,380. Diff = 16,513
Ohio also had a spectacular failure of its biggest cyber charter last year. It was called ECOT, or the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. It had the lowest graduation rate of any high school in the nation and very low test scores. Its owner collected $1 billion from the taxpayers of Ohio before he declared bankruptcy; that was after a court ordered him to return $67 million for one year of inflated enrollments.
I hope you will do some more research into charter performance and charter frauds and scandals. You might start by going to Twitter and looking at the list under the hashtag #AnotherDayAnotherCharterScandal.
Or look at the report by the Network for Public Education about the federal Charter Schools Program, called “Asleep at the Wheel,” which found that between the years 2006 and 2014 (Obama administration), the federal government wasted $1 billion on charter schools that never opened or closed shortly after opening.
Here are a few more readings for you:
https://dianeravitch.net/2019/04/07/bill-phillis-one-half-of-ohios-authorized-charter-schools-either-closed-or-never-opened/
https://dianeravitch.net/2018/09/01/stephen-dyer-ohio-charters-present-a-picture-of-incompetence-ineffectiveness-and-malfeasance/
https://dianeravitch.net/2019/03/10/ohio-another-reason-why-charter-schools-should-not-get-more-funding/
That’s only Ohio. If I had more time, I would give you even more hair-raising stories from Michigan and Arizona and California.
Think twice before you encourage diversion of funding your your public schools to entrepreneurs, corporate chains, and grifters.
I hope this helps.
Diane Ravitch