CHARLESTON — Representatives of the three teacher and school service personnel unions released a poll Monday showing vast opposition to the West Virginia Senate's Student Success Act.
The West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association held a joint press conference Monday morning 30 minutes before the resumption of the special session on education betterment by the House of Delegates.
Citing an online poll conducted by Change Research conducted June 11-12, the union said there is overwhelming opposition to Senate Bill 1039, the Student Success Act, along with an education savings account bill passed by the Senate on June 3.
"It's a bipartisan poll," said Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers-W.Va. "There are no surprises here. It follows the same path that we already knew."
The poll surveyed 1,548 likely voters with a margin of error of 2.5%. According to the results, 71% of those polled had heard of the Student Success Act. Of that number, 62% oppose the bill and 29% support it. Broken down by party, 47% of Republicans oppose the Student Success Act while 41% support it.
"The results of this poll did not surprise us," said personnel association Executive Director Joe White. "It's numbers and figures that we have been saying from day one. The problem here, my friends, some people don't listen to West Virginians. I think that's key. That's what we need to remember here: the voice of West Virginia has already spoken, and the voice of West Virginia is already written down and recorded."
The Student Success Act is a 142-page education reform omnibus bill including multiple proposals, including increased funding for mental health services, access to funds and increased flexibility for county school systems and better pay for educators in incentives for high-need subjects. The bill also makes changes to teacher hiring, and includes anti-strike provisions and an unlimited charter school program.
When polled, 78% said each proposal in the Student Success Act should be voted on as separate bills compared to 22% who supported action on one comprehensive bill. Broken down by party, 86% of Democrats support breaking the Student Success Act up, along with 77% of independents and 72% of Republicans.
The Student Success Act's charter school provision, which leaves the decision to authorize a public charter school up to county school boards, has overwhelming opposition by the teachers' unions, and also didn't carry much public support. According to the poll, 56% of respondents oppose charter schools, and 47% oppose education savings accounts, a voucher proposal that would give public money to parents to use for educational expenses, such as private or home schooling.
"Our members have made it clear that they're not interested in any charters at all, zero charters," said Education Association President Dale Lee. "We're not interested in any bill that has the opportunity for even one charter. I can't make it any more clear than that."
The House met Monday morning and broke up into four select committees to consider the Senate's Student Success Act and educations savings account bill, as well as 45 House bills dealing with education. Union leaders called on the House to be more responsive to different voices.
"I think it's very obvious that our hope is in the House. What we heard of the weekend rumor-wise, we're not sure the House is listening," Albert said. "We're here today to ask the House of Delegate members…to listen to the citizens of West Virginia."
A motion made Monday morning by Delegate Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, to reject the Senate message for the Student Success Act failed. Also failing was a motion by House Minority Leader Mike Caputo, D-Marion, to completely end the special session. According to the poll, 48% of respondents want the special session to end while 33% want it to continue.
"We would like to see this put to an end and very quickly, go home, enjoy the rest of summer, and then come back in the regular session and take up education betterment at that time. Stop wasting our taxpayer's dollars," Albert said.