Dale Lee: It’s open season on educators in WV Legislature (Opinion)

Remember when Elmer Fudd would declare with glee that it was finally “Wabbit season?” Such is the enthusiasm that lawmakers are showing as retaliatory bills that bash educators, hurt students and rob public schools of resources sail through the West Virginia Legislature.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic barreled into our lives, our driving concern has been and continues to be the safety of our students, their families and educators. The pandemic has shown the true value of public school educators as they organized hybrid or online instruction, provided meals and even internet access for their students and communities.

West Virginia Education Association members, in particular, found creative ways to reach and teach our students, supporting their students’ families financially and emotionally, and working longer hours and in ways they’ve never worked before.

And what thanks do these dedicated educators get? Lawmakers who either don’t understand or don’t care what’s happening in our public schools and who are catering to corporate privateers, like Americans For Prosperity. You see, it is all about the money. Public education is the last pot of cash lawmakers want to spend as they want, not how it was intended — in our public classrooms, educating our students.

The educator-bashing is an attempt to silence the voice of educators and demonize the WVEA. Insults are accompanied with demands from people who don’t understand schools or human motivation.

Lawmakers’ proposals would take us even further from the desirable learning community that WVEA members work to create in their schools every day. Their recommendations are strategically timed to negatively affect public schools and those who advocate and stand up for students and public education. Yes, that would be us, the educators who went on strike for professional teaching, learning and living conditions.

The work-stoppage bill that penalizes those who advocate for students, charter school and education savings acount schemes that rob schools of resources and the authority to provide oversight and plans to eliminate payroll deduction only for public-sector unions — all of these are vindictive, retaliatory actions that do nothing to improve public education. It’s shameful, really.

As candidates, these same legislators said they respected classroom and school professionals, and touted support for public education. They need to keep promises made to our students, to us as their constituents and to us as education professionals. To support public schools and public school educators.

Nearly all the education bills, plus plans to eliminate the state income tax, cut public education or demean educators in some way. That means the future of public education is on the line. Some legislators fail to grasp that investing in public education for our children is the only sound, long-term economic strategy. Cutting education now is like eating the seed corn — once it’s gone, you have destroyed your future.

Educators deserve respect and support as they tackle ever more challenging student learning needs, regardless of a pandemic. But we are in a pandemic. And they deserve genuine resources and support to ensure that the conditions for teaching and learning match the needs to prepare students for success to survive this pandemic and for the future.