During a town hall in Beckley at the Historic Black Knight, Gov. Jim Justice said he wants education reform.
"I want things better in schools," Justice said to the crowd of roughly 40 people. "Can they be better? You're daggum right they can."
Specifically, he called for more counselors, psychologists and nurses in schools; an increase in funding for counties with fewer than 1,500 students; providing incentives for math instructors; increasing the number of Mountaineer Challenge Academies; putting more emphasis on innovation zones; and providing tax credits for teacher supplies.
"Then let’s stop," Justice said. "Just stop right there."
The governor said he would have never agreed to a special session on education had Senate President Mitch Carmichael not told him everyone would be on board, and everything would be quickly resolved.
"We went through three months, and came back to almost exactly what we came out with in the beginning," Justice said.
He was critical of Republican leadership's failure to uphold the agreed upon no-strings-attached 5 percent pay raise for state employees. He was also critical of the 138-page omnibus bill that ultimately failed during the regular legislative session.
"It put us in a tailspin — 10 days out of school, thousands of people at the Capitol. What happened to our word? That's what I've got a problem with."
Earlier this month, during a special session on education, the state Senate passed the Student Success Act, another wide-sweeping, 144-page education reform bill, which includes pay raises and the possibility of charter schools.
The House of Delegates is set to reconvene Monday. House Speaker Roger Hanshaw has said both the Student Success Act and individual education bills will be considered by delegates.
Wendy Peters and Linda Boyd, two teachers who attended Thursday's town hall, said they were encouraged by what Justice said.
"He said exactly what we've been trying to say," said Boyd, a Shady Spring Elementary teacher and president of Raleigh County-American Federation of Teachers (AFT). "That was refreshing to hear, to know he feels they need to stop these attacks as well and get on board with us as educators, with him as a governor, and especially with the needs of the kids."
Peters, a 19-year Raleigh County educator and co-president of the Raleigh County Education Association, said fewer and fewer people are going to college to become educators.
"It's not very appealing to be an educator if you're constantly disrespected and attacked."
They both hope to see compromise from lawmakers, rather than retaliation. For them, charter schools and education savings accounts (ESAs) are out of the question.
"Going to the Capitol, standing up for what we believe in is something we won't stop doing," Boyd said. "They say they're compromising, but we don't see it as a compromise. We stand up for our kids and what we see as right for public education."
— Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @WendyHoldren