CHARLESTON, W.Va.—AFT-West Virginia, the union representing 10,000 educators across the state, has launched a massive digital and radio advertising campaign to help voters understand that the future of public schools is at stake. The campaign features AFT-WV members Heather Ritter from Boone and Amber Brown from Putnam County, among others, who remind West Virginians that the Betsy DeVos-backed efforts to privatize public education failed in Michigan, and are doomed to fail in West Virginia as well—and that funding is better spent on the real supports kids need.
The campaign ramps up as the state’s House of Delegates considers next steps after the state Senate approved Senate Bill 1039, an omnibus education bill that forbids teachers from striking and creates a pathway for charter schools, and a separate education savings account measure that siphons taxpayer dollars out of public schools and into the private school system. Both measures are seen by many as retaliation against educators in the state who went on strike twice during the past year, fighting for more resources for their classrooms and better investment in public schools; the state ranked last in the country in teacher salaries in 2016, and 27th in per-pupil spending.
The ads are part of a statewide effort to organize educators, parents, community members and other allies in support of the public schools that the majority of West Virginia’s kids—more than 270,000—attend.
AFT-West Virginia President Fred Albert said:
“We’re incredibly disappointed in how this legislative session has gone so far, and while we remain hopeful about the House, we’re taking our message straight to the voters: Public schools need investment. Charter schools run amok with little oversight; educations savings accounts and other Betsy DeVos ‘reforms’ have wreaked havoc in Michigan and in other states across this country—we won’t let that happen to public schools here in West Virginia.”
AFT-WV is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.7 million education and healthcare professionals nationwide.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said:
“This proposal is a Betsy DeVos 1 percent special—it’s designed to hurt the people who have kids’ best interests at heart. It is written to punish teachers and hurt students, rather than strengthen public schools by increasing funding for more counselors, more teacher training and recruitment, and more classroom supplies. Under the guise of ‘choice,’ the plan takes money out of the public schools that need it. But make no mistake: That agenda has been a failure for kids and teachers before.
“The DeVos-backed charters in Michigan lagged 84 percent behind state averages in math and 80 percent in reading. And nearly half of all the state’s charter schools ranked among the bottom of American schools. She’s trying to bring this failed plan to West Virginia, and we’re going to make sure West Virginians know what she’s trying to do to their public schools.”
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