CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Groups representing West Virginia teachers say a portion of the education reform package originally seen as a win for teachers is vulnerable to misinterpretation by county school systems.
Policy 5000 was created by the state Board of Education as a product of the massive education reform package approved by the Legislature this spring. It makes major revisions to hiring practices, giving teachers more input.
It's been a contentious policy from the start: Originally approved in June, it had to be passed as an emergency rule, without the benefit of a public comment period before it took effect (the comment period followed the passage of the policy, and it's still open for revisions).
The original passage was also a rushed affair, with state officials scurrying to take into account complaints from state teachers' unions before approving the policy -- the two groups were in talks during the state Board of Education meeting at which the policy had to be voted upon.
Now, more than two months after the policy took effect and began influencing teacher hiring in West Virginia, teacher unions are worried county school systems will interpret it differently than they intended.
Christine Campbell, president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said that at least one county, Hampshire, is refusing to compensate teachers for participating in the vetting process for prospective new teachers.
The crux of their argument lies in one word: may. As the policy reads now, it says that county school systems "may" compensate teachers for the time they invest in the hiring process, not "shall," while would clearly mandate that teachers must be paid for that time.