The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 14, 2013

Our Readers Speak - Thursday, March 14, 2013

Which is the better bargain for taxpayers?

The West Virginia Legislature is in session and it is open season on West Virginia’s teachers.

Gov. Tomblin ordered an audit of the state’s education system which recommended making cuts at the WVDE. It noted that nearly half the jobs in the WVDE should not be overseen by that agency. It also suggested that different sources for purchasing would provide a huge savings. The audit recommends 180 days of school for every student and raising teacher salaries. The cuts and restructuring together could potentially save the state a whopping $90 million. That should be a no-brainer, right?

Not so much, according to Tomblin’s education reform bill. Incidentally, Tomblin’s audit cost the state $350 per day, paid to a private consultant who was previously employed by the State Department of Education. The governor largely ignored the truths found by his own audit, and has instead chosen to place the blame on the state’s teachers.

W.Va. Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts suggested teachers in our state do not care about students. When called out by the teachers, Mr. Roberts said he was “misquoted.” Mr. Roberts, you do not know me. I am a teacher. I don’t manufacture and sell widgets. I mold young minds. My own child and my students are not for sale.

On top of the governor’s insults, we must also endure the venomous tongue-wagging, sarcasm and epithets of Sen. Erik Wells. Wells is Natalie Tennant’s husband and former host of a local morning news show. One wonders how either of those descriptions makes him an authority on education. Wells’ most recent rant on the Senate floor included a reminder that teacher salaries are paid by the taxpayer. That is true. We are accountable.

I must remind Sen. Wells that he, too, is paid by the taxpayer. I am both a taxpayer and a teacher. Legislators make $20,000 per year plus a $131 per diem. That means Sen. Wells will earn $27,860 for a 60-day session, if the Senate finishes its work within the session, which is usually not the case, so he will be paid an additional per diem for the extra days. This is ironic, since Wells so vehemently bangs the drum about what teachers should get done within a given timeframe.

A beginning teacher in West Virginia makes an average of $37,000, to teach 180 days. Which do you, the taxpayer, consider the better bargain? If this were a legitimate contest, I know which would garner my vote. It wouldn’t be Erik Wells.

Natalie Coots