CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Wednesday he and his staff have agreed to changes to his education reform bill that should satisfy most of the qualms expressed by teacher unions and other opponents.
Union officials responded by saying the governor's legislation is still far off the mark.
The state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and the West Virginia Education Association were among the first to cry foul when Tomblin's 179-page education reform bill was introduced.
Tomblin and members of his staff met personally with union officials this week.
During a 35-minute conference call with the Daily Mail Wednesday, he said some language in the bill has been clarified and should address "almost all" of the unions' concerns.
"I think there were probably about 18 different areas and about 16 and a half of those, we have been able to satisfy the teacher organizations," Tomblin said.
The changes will be incorporated in the form of a new bill, known in legislative vernacular as a "committee substitute."
The substitute bill makes it clear teachers will be paid for seven holidays.
Another change appears to be more than language clarification.
The governor's original bill called for only one mandatory faculty senate meeting in the state's schools each year. Six are mandated in current code.
The revised bill will mandate four faculty senate meetings, and counties would have the leeway to schedule more, said Hallie Mason, Tomblin's policy director.
"There's also language added to make sure classroom teachers are a part of the collaborative process for professional development," Mason said.
The revision also clarifies that seniority would follow teachers from school to school within a county, Mason added.
Referring to other union complaints, Tomblin said there was never any intent to require that school be held Saturdays or that teachers lose their daily planning periods.
The changes are minor but address many of the issues raised by the unions, Mason and Tomblin said.
"I'm not sure there will be 100 percent agreement. However, I think the fact that we've been able to work through so many of these issues, there will be more people coming on board with it now," Tomblin said.
Judy Hale, state head of the AFT, and Dale Lee, president of the WVEA, disagree.
Late Thursday Hale said she hadn't seen the committee substitute. Lee said he had received the measure but hadn't read all of it. But they're pretty sure the replacement still will give them headaches.
"I really think if the governor's been told that we have mostly agreed on this bill, I think he's been misinformed," Hale said. "I know he's been misinformed, because that is certainly not so."
Tomblin said the two remaining points of contention were teacher hiring requirements and altering state code that keeps Teach For America participants out of state classrooms.