House passes bill that some say chips away at education reform

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Some members of the House of Delegates sharply disagreed Friday before approving a bill that would make a change to education reform measures¬†approved by lawmakers last year.

Opponents argue House Bill 4394 rolls back reforms when it comes to the teacher hiring process and puts more weight on seniority than actual qualifications for the job. The bill calls for additional documentation when teachers are hired by committees made up of teachers, principals and superintendents.

Del. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, said the documentation that includes how a candidate was weighed on certain criteria does nothing but give fuel for grievances for those who aren’t chosen for the open teaching job.

“This bill simply complicates the process yet again, adding a scoring matrix and other criteria and what it ends up with is a subjective grievance claim,” Cowles said.

Del. David Walker, D-Clay, said the current hiring process, which isn’t even a year old, gives the hiring committee too much power.

“They don’t want to¬†document nothing,” Walker said. “They don’t want the teacher to have a grievance procedure. They want to play God and say, ‘this is who it’s going to be, no questions asked, go on about your merry business,'” Walker said.

Some delegates argued it was too soon to make any adjustments in the reform law that was hailed last year as landmark legislation. Del. Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, said the bill was a solution in search of a problem.

But Del. Ricky Moye, D-Raleigh, said the bill would not hurt education reform.

“I would like to see one place in this bill that points out we’re changing hiring practices, they’re the exact same, there is no difference,” Moye said. “All this does bill does is give public transparency, clarity to the process.”

The bill is strongly supported by the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers.

“All we want is documentation so that we can say, ‘This is how the process works and this is why the process works,'” WV-AFT President Christine Campbell said earlier this week on MetroNews Talkline.

The bill passed the House 70-25 and will now head to the state Senate.

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