CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Don't expect to see the word "languish" associated with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education reform measure. At least as far as the Senate Education Committee is concerned.
Although the committee is taking up the measure quickly, the state's two largest teachers unions say legislators need to slow down and conclude that bill isn't in the best interest of educators or students.
The committee took up Tomblin's 179-page bill Tuesday, one day after its introduction. There was little discussion of the measure (SB 359), as committee attorney Hank Hager read through the 34 alterations or additions in code suggested. But Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne and committee chairman, expects the committee will vote on the bill during its March 7 meeting.
"This is an opportunity to go through what is in the bill so all members will know what to be looking out for, what the changes are going to be," said Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, committee vice chairman.
Hager made it most of the way through the bill before running out of time. He's expected to finish his presentation during the next committee meeting, which could be as soon as Thursday.
There will also be time for stakeholders to voice their concerns with the committee, Plymale said. Wells said the American Federation of Teachers and West Virginia Education Association will have the chance to speak, and he expects the Department of Education to discuss the bill as well.
Although he said he hasn't had a great deal of time to review the bill, Wells said its impact is obvious.
"I think the bill is strong from the perspective that it is determined to get to student achievement and get the best qualified teacher in the classroom. I don't know how anyone can argue against that," Wells said. "Our role in state government should not be job security, it should be educating students."
Both the West Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are excited to argue with Wells or anyone else who thinks the bill holds water.
Judy Hale, state president for AFT, and Dale Lee, president of the WVEA, agreed Monday the bill has a few bright spots. Overall, though, they say it's a travesty, and they want everyone to know it.
On Tuesday, the AFT started a campaign to inform its 16,000 members about the problems union leadership sees with the bill. It emailed a report entitled "SB359 gets a failing grade! Rights of school employees threatened!" to all of its members, said Christine Campbell, president-elect.