West Virginia teachers’ union holds focus groups to pressure lawmakers

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

Education reform is allegedly on the minds of teachers’ unions in West Virginia, which is a politically-red state.

The West Virginia Federation of Teachers and West Virginia Education Association announced five listening sessions, or public focus groups as they called it, throughout the state in the coming weeks. These unions are the state affiliates for the national American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association (NEA), respectively.

The president for West Virginia’s AFT affiliate, Fred Albert, told local news outlet WV Metro News that all are invited to these sessions, particularly state lawmakers. “We need to listen to the experts and those experts are those teachers facing situations every day in the classroom. I hope some students show up at these focus groups as well so we can hear from them,” he said, “We hope legislators show up,” he said. “The focus groups are to find some solutions for success because no one is happy when test scores are published and they’re not where we want them to be.”

The first two sessions took place this week in Morgantown and Wheeling, but three more in-person sessions will be held in the next two weeks and an additional virtual session on December 15.

In the Morgantown session, teachers made up most of the audience. The most common responses from the audience were teacher salary, training for teachers, parental involvement, student motivation, staffing, and educational attainment. The county’s AFT president claimed that teachers face a lack of respect in the classroom and community and lack proper support from school administrators.

The unions demand that education reform is needed and point to recent national assessment results which put West Virginia towards the bottom of the country in math and reading achievement scores. Yet the list of responses from the Morgantown session did not mention innovation in education to meet the needs of students and focused on typical complaints from teachers’ unions.

The remaining sessions will be held in the following cities and on the listed dates below:

  • Charleston – Monday, Dec. 5
  • Beckley – Thursday, Dec. 8
  • Martinsburg – Tuesday, Dec. 13
  • Virtual forum – Thursday, Dec. 15

Both unions may be concerned about future legislative actions in the coming 2023 legislative session. During last year’s session, the Republican majority was unsuccessful in its attempt to ban Critical Race Theory and related dogmatic, partisan theories from West Virginia’s public school curriculum and lesson plans. The state senate passed a bill about banning Critical Race Theory, but then the bill died in the state House.