The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 10, 2013

Showdown


The Register-Herald

— Not to oversimplify it, but the education reform bill that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has proposed might best be compared to a game of Texas Hold ’em. The governor has gone all in and now the unions representing many of West Virginia’s teachers are rallying support to call Tomblin’s move.

And it certainly is the highest of stakes considering changes will impact how we educate our children in the future.

Tomblin presented his plan in the form of a package, and to date he hasn’t wavered or given any indication that he will change his thinking on any of the proposals.

Leaders representing the teachers have been highly critical of various parts of Tomblin’s proposal including issues as they relate to seniority and hiring practices.

The governor has responded to those criticisms by saying his ideas have been thought through and has explained why he believes they will work.

Seeing that Tomblin isn’t bluffing and obviously has no intention of making any major changes, the unions have sent out the word to their rank-and-file membership that they better speak up now.

During the West Virginia Press Association’s annual legislative breakfast held last Thursday morning, a number of legislators said when asked that they are beginning to receive a fairly significant amount of communication from teachers concerning the governor’s legislation.

Senate and House leaders from both political parties formally addressed those in attendance at the WVPA event, and while the state’s fiscal situation and other issues like prison overcrowding were discussed, it was quite apparent that education reform is the dominant topic right now in Charleston.

Later Thursday, hearings were scheduled to resume in the Senate on the education bill but twice, despite a room full of interested parties being on hand, the proceedings were postponed.

The Senate Education panel is now expected to resume discussions on Monday, and some believe by the end of the week the legislation will be voted on by the upper chamber and then passed on to the House.

While the Senate is expected to approve Tomblin’s package with few if any revisions, you can expect it to have a much rougher time in the House.

House Education committee chair Mary Poling, a retired teacher, has already set the tone in the lower chamber by signing on to a letter written by a Sissonville High School teacher that is highly critical of the governor’s proposals.

Poling said it was for informational purposes only and that she hasn’t formally taken a position on Tomblin’s legislation. Maybe so, but the old “actions are louder than words” mentality is clearly present.

For several years West Virginia legislators have been wrangling with ideas to reform education. Now, it is front and center during a regular session of the Legislature, and all indicators are pointing to a showdown between Tomblin and the House.

Debate and conversation are good; we encourage it from all sides.

But hopefully what’s coming in the days ahead, with all the proverbial chips on the table, will be a result that benefits our future generations. That’s what the goal must be.

The governor is ultimately responsible for leading the state on issues, and he has put forward, in our opinion, a workable plan to begin meaningful improvements.

Lawmakers now have to craft a final piece of legislation that Tomblin can sign and everyone can live with.