That was music to the ears of Christine Campbell, president-elect for AFT West Virginia.
"I've been saying that all along: we need to see the evidence that the hiring criteria is not working, that it has a negative impact on student achievement," Campbell said.
There's no evidence that hiring the most qualified teacher is a bad move, she argued. The AFT and Unger believe the change could lead to nepotism.
That was fear mongering, said Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha.
"What I feel is going to happen is that people will come forward with these crazy notions that all of a sudden we're going to implode if we don't hire the teacher with the most seniority. That's not going to happen," said Wells, education committee vice chairman.
"We can't legislate through fear, and that's what some of these questions are geared toward: let's put fear in teachers' minds that if we pass this legislation, then everyone is going to get fired," he said. "And that's just a ridiculous argument."
Finding a high-quality teacher is the bottom line for any hire, but finding someone who fits into a school's environment also is important, Wells said.
Wells doesn't buy the argument that more proof is needed when it comes to seniority. He says he's seen enough evidence.
"When you're 48th in the nation in student achievement, we need to take action. We can't sit there and go back and say, 'Well, we need all the data,' " he said.
State Board of Education President Wade Linger also addressed the committee.
Phares and Linger both said they support the bill and think it would give local school systems and the department more flexibility to make changes.
Unger said he wouldn't vote for the bill without some change to the provision regarding seniority.
Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, backed up some of the points made by Mason and Phares.
Whenever a hiring decision is taken before a grievance judge, the judge almost always sides with the person who has more seniority, Plymale said.
Judy Hale, outgoing AFT president, was slated to take the podium, but the committee ran out of time. Plymale said she would be first on the agenda when the committee meets again at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Plymale has scheduled a second meeting on Tuesday for 5 p.m. There also will be meetings at 2 and 5 p.m. Thursday.
The governor's bill will be the focus of those meetings, and discussion will go as long as it takes, Plymale said.
He plans to put the bill to a vote Thursday.