"The administrators, teachers and staff in each county are well-educated and extremely professional," Hicks said. "They have the ability to determine what is best for their districts and students."
In Lee's view, that would mean changing hiring practices and the giving too much power to a school principal. That makes teachers nervous, Lee said, citing information received during forums concerning the audit.
The WVEA recently coordinated seven forums throughout the state. Of the 312 participants, 250 completed exit surveys, according to the forum report. More than 80 percent who did complete the surveys were teachers.
Lee said the surveys showed many teachers do not support giving more power to the principals when it comes to hiring decisions. Responses to the other aspects of the audit discussed during the forum - teacher pay, recruitment and retention and teacher evaluations, for example - generally fell in line with the WVEA's stance on the topic.
Lee's comments sparked debate with several legislators. The discussion took up a lion's share of the meeting, and legislators hinted at similar discussion once the legislative session starts in February.
Pat Kusimo, president of the nonprofit Education Alliance, asked legislators to look at portions of the audit that can impact student outcomes.
Factors outside the classroom can affect students greatly, and it's important these are not ignored in any recommendations, she argued.
For example, she thinks 180 instructional days should be a minimum for all school systems. At-risk students generally don't have the same access to technology or support system that lends itself to effective education outside the classroom, she said. Spending more time in school would benefit these students academically and ensure many get the meals upon which they have come to depend.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the audit, and no action regarding the audit was taken. Changes in the form of new laws are expected to be presented during the upcoming legislative session.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and many legislators have pledged that education is the top priority heading into the session.