SHORT GAP- The Mineral County educators who attended a March 26 meeting to discuss education reform in West Virginia overwhelming voted for building upgrades, an increase in special education services and after school programs and the establishment of innovation zones, but shot down the controversial charter schools and education savings accounts.

By Liz Beavers
lbeavers@newstribune.info
Tribune Managing Editor
SHORT GAP- The Mineral County educators who attended a March 26 meeting to discuss education reform in West Virginia overwhelming voted for building upgrades, an increase in special education services and after school programs and the establishment of innovation zones, but shot down the controversial charter schools and education savings accounts.
The meeting, attended by educators and legislators at Frankfort High School, had been called by Mineral County Board of Education member Mary Jane Baniak as a way for the two factions to discuss both the good and bad points included in the Education Omnibus Bill previously considered by the lawmakers.
Baniak’s complaint had been that the legislators had not heard the thoughts and concerns of the educators, and even Gov. Jim Justice had instructed them to go out and listen to their constituents as they prepared for the upcoming special session to once again discuss education reform.
At the March 26 meeting, Frankfort teacher Terri Engnoth led the discuss and passed out a list of issues that had been included in the bill, asking the teachers to vote for or against them.
Two of the issues which drew the most debate throughout the state were the establishment of charter schools and education savings accounts, which would help parents fund either homeschooling their children or sending them to charter schools.
The teachers unanimously voted against both issues, with 0 votes for and 19 against.
The majority of teachers said they felt both charter schools and ESAs would drain funding from the public schools, which are already suffering from various cutbacks.
The teachers overwhelmingly approved Innovation Zones, however, which allow for schools to establish enhanced learning experiences for the students.
Increasing funding for the growing special education populations in schools, and expanding after-school programs were unanimous favorites of the teachers, along with upgrading career and technical programs and a reduction is class sizes.
It was noted by several attendees at the March 26 meeting that the years-long push for students to attend college is becoming outdated as more and more jobs on today’s market are geared toward technical skills - thus the need for upgraded technical centers.
The members of the West Virginia Legislature will be returned to Charleston on Tuesday for the first of eight interim sessions, and are expected to set a date at that time for the session focusing on education reform.