A rally of #RedforEd teachers at West Virginia’s state capitol on Monday failed to intimidate the GOP-controlled West Virginia State Legislature from moving forward with legislation that would authorize charter schools in the state.
“Despite teacher protests, Republicans in the West Virginia House of Delegates have advanced their wide-ranging education proposal to allow the state’s first charter schools,” the Associated Press reported on Monday.
Late Wednesday, the House of Delegates passed that education bill that included charter schools by a 51 to 47 margin. On Thursday, WV Metro News reported, “Senate President Mitch Carmichael indicates an omnibus education bill will likely pass that chamber – again — and Gov. Jim Justice says he will sign it.”
“I’ll sign it and be very, very proud to sign it,” Justice said during a West Virginia Day celebration.
“It’s a good bill and everything, and it does make things better and it does reward our teachers and our service personnel, all of our people who are involved in so many different ways. So it’s a good bill, a really good bill. I’ll proudly sign it.”
“I am eager for the Senate to pass this bill when we reconvene, and I am hopeful that Governor Justice will show his support by signing it quickly,” Carmichael said in a statement released by his office.
The #RedforEd rally on Monday drew teachers from West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia, as well as national media. Reporters for Jacobin Magazine, the openly Marxist publication that often features #RedforEd leaders as contributors, sent this tweet out Monday’s rally:
— Jacobin (@jacobinmag) June 17, 2019
AFT-West Virginia, the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, was on the ground as well:
— AFT-West Virginia (@AFTWV) June 17, 2019
New York Magazine was apparently on the ground in Charleston, West Virginia on Monday and also weighed in about the #RedforEd rally at the state capitol:
Carla Okouchi, an educator from Fairfax, Virginia, told New York that she and others drove to West Virginia to “to show our support and solidarity.”
“This Red for Ed movement kind of sprung from this area of West Virginia. We’re certainly inspired by all of the work and advocacy that they have been doing,” she said.
But, for one of the few times since the #RedforEd movement launched in Arizona in March 2018, the show of political force failed to yield the desired political results, as WV Metro News reported:
The bill includes a variety of proposed changes to the education system, including pay raises, charter schools, increased support personnel for schools, open enrollment, incentives to fill in-demand positions and financial support for small or struggling counties.
But the focus has been on a provision of the bill allowing charter schools in West Virginia.
This version wound up with an allowance of three charter schools initially, followed by a possibility of three more in 2023 with an additional three possible every three years. Local school boards would have to approve the charter schools.
Proponents of charter schools, however, say the West Virginia bill passed by the House on Monday does not go far enough.
“A proposal is under consideration in the West Virginia House of Delegates right now to approve an omnibus education bill that was intended to expand education opportunity in the Mountain State, where barely 31 percent of students can read or do math proficiently,” Jeanne Allen, the founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, said in a statement released by the organization on Wednesday. She added:
But rather than consider a bold proposal that would have allowed thousands of students to attend brand-new, innovative schools of choice, the legislature has bent to both ignorance and special interest pressure in moving forward a proposal that would help no one student get the education they deserve. The pending proposal would create only three schools, which would be micromanaged by the same bureaucracy that oversees under-performing traditional public education in the state.
Neither Allen’s criticism from the right, nor the #RedforEd criticism from the left, however, appear to be likely to derail the passage of this charter schools enabling bill in the State Senate, or its signing into law by Gov. Justice.