CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's teachers' groups are on the defensive as lawmakers debate Gov. Joe Manchin's proposed changes to the state's public schools.
The West Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, have each appealed to the Legislature as the special session continues.
The groups question whether the governor is blaming teachers for the state's poor showing in several education categories. They also argue he's pursuing federal funds at the expense of hiring protections and other issues.
On the eve of the session's start last week, WVEA President Dale Lee cited results of an online survey that found members and other educators opposed to Manchin's proposals.
Lee said teachers feel under fire by those measures and by the governor's recent criticisms of the education system. Manchin appeared before the state school board in March, challenging it and Department of Education officials to develop game-changing measures for his legislative agenda.
"Most teachers out there are doing an exemplary job," Lee told reporters,"but let's be clear: Teachers out there and the WVEA want the best in our profession. We don't protect bad teachers, as is portrayed out there. All we protect is due-process rights."
Judy Hale, AFT-WV's president, argues that Manchin is prematurely seeking to loosen teacher certification standards, require annual evaluations for educators and ease rules that now limit when teachers and principals can be removed or transferred. A special task force has yet to finish studying evaluation policies, she noted, and Congress has not decided how it will revamp key federal education policies.
Manchin and state education officials says they believe the legislation anticipates how the Obama administration wants to reshape the federal programs that last year provided more than $100 million to West Virginia schools. A chief goal of the agenda is improving the state's bid for up to $75 million in federal "Race to the Top" competitive grants.
The governor says his agenda paints no bull's-eyes.