CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A new campaign from the American Federation of Teachers – West Virginia called “Schools Our Students Need” seeks to build on the education reform law to improve the education of the Mountain State’s students.

“Our teachers and our service personnel and our parents and our students have said — resoundingly — we need help in doing the jobs that we attempt to do every day,” said Fred Albert, president of AFT-WV.

The campaign is starting to be rolled out to counties across West Virginia at the start of the new school years.

It includes four key focus areas largely in response to the opioid epidemic:

1. More funding for community drug treatment and rehabilitation services;
2. Additional investments in school support services in each school including a full-time nurse and mental health counselor;
3. Smaller class sizes;
4. Competitive pay and benefits to ensure a certified teacher is in every classroom.

Also, “We’re asking all citizens to take a pledge to get behind our efforts to support our public schools,” Albert said.

“I think this is a very worthwhile campaign that we’re very excited about. We hope that we can garner that excitement as we talk to members throughout the state.”

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Albert said the roots of the campaign were in the series of public meetings on education reforms the state Department of Education held across West Virginia earlier this year ahead of passage of the omnibus education bill.

Going forward, he said the law should be considered “a good start.”

“We listened. Our union listened to the citizens of West Virginia, the teachers, the service personnel,” Albert said.

He presented campaign cards to those on the BOE last week ahead of a formal campaign launch later this year.

“Schools Our Students Need” falls under the umbrella of an effort the national American Federation of Teachers launched earlier this year called “Fund Our Future.”

It seeks to reverse state and federal education funding cuts, build on existing education investments and equalize investments in public schools and universities.