UPDATE | Education reform forums continue, special session nears

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SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATED 4/11/19 @ 10:45 p.m.
It's been just over one month since the legislative session wrapped up in West Virginia, but parents, teachers and students are still talking about education reform.

West Virginia Education Association Organizational Development Specialist said the opinion of educators has remained the same since the session ended. "We want to see our public schools continue to thrive," he said.

Education forums have been held around the state, including at South Charleston Middle School on Thursday.

"We're getting one-on-one with our citizens, we're getting one-on-one with our teachers," Del. Andrew Byrd, D-Kanawha, said.

Lawmakers came to the forum to listen and take notes ahead of the special session that will focus solely on education reform. Much of the conversation echoed what teachers said at the capitol during the teachers' strike.

Most educators are against charter schools. Teachers and students alike expressed a need for more school counselors. "They're dealing with so many other problems that these kids are dealing with outside of school in their homes," Stump said.

Teachers have also noted their are spread too thin. "They don't have time to actually instruct," Stump said. "Whether it's testing, loss of planning time, extra paperwork, they're just kind of caught up in all the bureaucracies."

Some parents and students have voiced support for things like charter schools at the forums.

Educators are hopeful as the special session nears, but they are also staying realistic about the lawmakers' decisions. "My worry is they're listening, but they're just listening for ways to twist it back into what they want," Stump said.

While there is a fear among educators for the special session, they said many lawmakers have been attentive and supportive throughout the forums.

Lawmakers said there is no set date for the special session yet, but they are expecting it will be sometime in June.

Teachers, parents and students are getting an opportunity to share their vision of what changes need to be made ahead of the governor's special session on education.

The first of seven public forums across the state was held Monday.

Round-table discussions were held in the cafeteria at Cabell Midland High School.

During the past legislative session, teachers went on strike, upset over charter schools and ESA's in the controversial education reform bill that ultimately was defeated.

"I think throughout the legislative session, that was something a lot of people felt was missing, was that voice from the field or the voice from people on the front lines of education," Executive Director of Communications for the WV Department of Education Kristin Anderson said.

Teachers were grateful for the platform to voice their thoughts on how to improve education.

"The governor and the Senate and the House and all need a concise understanding of where we're coming from," Cabell Midland special education teacher Kathy Morris said.

Kathie Hess Crouse lives in Buffalo in Putnam County and home-schools her kids. She's in favor of the creation of charter schools.

"(Public education) is a system that's gone too far downhill," Hess said. "There's no correcting it quickly."

A summary report on the forums will be given to the governor and legislative leadership by May 1.

If you'd like to share input but can't make it to the forums, there's an online survey you can take on this website: https://wvde.us/education-public-forum/

The next education forum in our area will be Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Capital High School.