Raleigh County education leader wary of ESA, charter schools proposals

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As the omnibus education bill moves through the House of Delegates’ amendments process this week, the co-president of the Raleigh County Education Association is among those closely monitoring the status of the evolving proposal.

Wendy Peters

Wendy Peters, an elementary school teacher, told MetroNews she’s concerned about what she described as relentless pressure being exerted by outside interests to bring about the creation of charter schools and education savings accounts in West Virginia.

“Some folks in leadership are more beholden to these out-of-state interests, who have poured a lot of money into this,” she said. “They let charter school and education savings account folks have three hours to answer and ask questions in the (Senate) Finance Committee, and then they gave the teachers, the principals, and the superintendents of the state 70 seconds (each).”

Peters rejected the argument that charter schools would provide the best avenue for allowing teachers to use innovative approaches to traditional educational curricula.

“If it’s really about innovation and trying to do some things differently, innovation zones would give public schools the opportunity to make some changes.  I think we would be fine with that because that’s not going to take money away from the public school system,” she said.

Peters said she foresees issues with accountability and oversight arising from the creation of education savings accounts, which presumably would be monitored by the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office.

“The number they’ve thrown out is that they would give $3,200 to parents who wish to use that money for educational purposes.  We don’t know what they’re going to do with that money.  We have a drug epidemic, here.  How do we know that they’re not going to use that money for purposes other than education?  That’s a lot, I think, to ask from the state treasurer, to kind of monitor that,” said Peters.

Representatives from several education associations in West Virginia have indicated that their members are willing to consider going on strike for the second time in three years, if the legislature passes an education reform bill that is seen as too aggressive in areas such as the advent of state-funded charter schools and the creation of education savings accounts.