Education groups give union report bad grade

West Virginia’s reputation as a strong labor union state is supported by a recent national study of American teacher unions that concluded the Mountain State has the 13th strongest union presence in the nation. And the same study concludes that this state’s policies are better aligned with traditional union interests than any other state, in the opinion of The Fordham Institute and Education Reform Now study.

Released last week, the report is a comprehensive analysis of American teacher unions based on such factors as involvement in politics, scope of bargaining and perceived influence.

West Virginia “does not support performance pay and does not require student achievement data to factor into either teacher evaluations or tenure,” the report concluded. “Seniority is the sole factor in layoff decisions, while teacher performance is not considered at all.”

It’s to be expected that leaders of the state organizations disagree with these findings.  Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, questions the accuracy of this conclusion as does Judy Hale, president of the American Federation of Teachers chapter here.

“That’s not accurate at all,” Lee told a Charleston newspaper reporter. “A lot of things like certification and evaluation come into play. Seniority is a very small part of that.”  The report also ranks this state’s teacher unions as the fourth-most-involved in politics and concluded these unions have the six-highest perceived influence in the country.

     Meanwhile, a recent incident involving a correctional officer at the Southern Regional Jail who was arrested for sexually abusing female inmates exposed the present practice that allows these individuals to collect severance pay while they are in jail. The same day a 39-year-old employee at the jail was arrested on charges of trading cigarettes for sex with three women, William Roy Wilson of Beckley was issued a $3,143.53 termination check.

Former legislator Joe DeLong, now the director of the state jails system, said he hopes to work with members of the Legislature in 2013 to amend the law to change how the agency deals with suspended and terminated employees. DeLong said Wilson was terminated, arrested and jailed and “was sitting in one of our cells” but was able to receive a paycheck because “state statute requires him to be paid for 15 days after his termination.”

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