CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There weren’t many surprises for Fred Albert in the report on education forums released earlier this week.

Albert, the President of AFT West Virginia, appeared on Wednesday’s MetroNews’ “Talkline” to discuss his thoughts on what he saw in the report, titled ‘West Virginia’s Voice,’ and what needs to happen moving forward.

Fred Albert

“I’m really not surprised,” he said. “This is what we have been hearing from the community before the forums were held.

“I think this is a pretty complete report and I think it is West Virginia’s voice on what we need to improve education in West Virginia.”

The results from the report put together by the state Department of Education has a showed strong recommendations of wanting more social-emotional support for students in schools, higher pay for all school employees and flexibility in schools, but not with charter schools and education savings accounts (ESAs).

Teachers and school service personnel went on a two-day work stoppage in February over Senate Bill 451, which featured many provision including pay raises, but also had charter schools and ESAs.

“I think that we need to sit down and use this report as a framework moving forward,” Albert said.

“We have said all along that we need to take time with this. It’s serious business. When we want to reform and improve public education for our students, it’s going to take some time. It’s not going to be an overnight fix.”

West Virginia Legislature

Roger Hanshaw

Last week on “Talkline,” House Speaker Roger Hanshaw said school choice and charter schools are to likely be revisited during the upcoming special session.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael said on “Talkline” on April 25 said he, Gov. Jim Justice and Hanshaw had a meeting and agreed to propose public charter schools in the special session.

“I am a little bit discouraged that some of our leaders in the Senate and House would have come out before this report was even completed and say they are definitely going to go back to Senate Bill 451 and put most of those components in there,” Albert said.

“To me, that’s being disingenuous. Let this report be the framework.”

Mitch Carmichael

Albert said the community’s voices were heard in the report that saw over 1,600 people attend the forums spanning two months, more than 17,000 surveys turned in and around 2,500 comment cards sent in.

According to the report, there were approximately 600 roundtables discussions at the forums and 40-percent of attendees identified themselves as parents and community members.

“If you didn’t go to one of these forums, you had the opportunity to go and have your voice heard, that’s on you,” Albert said.

“I think our communities were involved. The voice of West Virginians has been heard.”

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