Brian Bowman, an English teacher at Independence High School in Raleigh County, says he wishes to challenge West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael and other Senate Republicans to visit his school and see what public school teachers face every day.
On Friday, Carmichael told The Register-Herald he and other Senate Republicans plan to introduce a "comprehensive student success act" within the next couple weeks in light of the special session on education, including provisions like a teacher pay raise, differential pay for teachers who teach certain subjects and even incentives for teachers who utilize their sick and personal days.
However, the comprehensive bill will also include the possible implementation of public charter schools.
Bowman said Carmichael should be more concerned about other things, such as the lack of school nurses and guidance counselors in public schools throughout the state, and the opioid epidemic affecting many of the state's children.
"He should be concerned about those things, not the special interests of others who have nothing to do with public education," Bowman said. "I have no say-so in the fact my school needs more counselors and more nurses, and I don't have a say about the opioid epidemic that has taken over our state that has taken the life of many of my past students.
"So I challenge these lawmakers to come to my school and not just spend a couple hours, but rather a couple days, and see what I deal with and what my fellow teachers deal with. If they think charter schools are going to fix those problems, they're crazy."
While the special session on education still has no designated date, Bowman said he feels like certain lawmakers are "dangling the carrot" in hopes teachers will be worn down by the time school ends for the summer and won't attend the special session to speak out.
"If they think we won't go up there this summer because we aren't working and have no leverage to walk out, they're wrong. We're that passionate about speaking out on these issues," he said.
Bowman spoke with The Register-Herald Saturday at an event called West Virginia Troublemakers School, hosted by Labor Notes, a media and organizing project serving as the voice of union activists since 1979.
The event was organized by the West Virginia United Caucus, a caucus of union members from American Federation of Teachers and West Virginia Education Association.
Bowman said within the caucus, members work together across unions to continue to inform and educate one another on issues such as education reform, from the 2018-19 teacher strikes in West Virginia.
"It's a further reminder of our power as workers in this state," Bowman said. "We're not lost on the fact that we're the people who serve, teachers, nurses, etc.
"We all serve people in our communities, and it's sad they want to continue to attack the professions that serve their communities and where they live."
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