'Our Students First' coalition gathers to rally, speak out against omnibus education bill

Published: Jan. 31, 2019 at 11:03 PM EST
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A new group of parents and teachers, "Our Students First," gathered at the West Virginia Capitol on Thursday to advocate for public education.

Group leaders said they were there to make a point that no matter what happens with the proposed omnibus education bill, they will always be working for the kids.

This event happened just a few hours after the 144-page bill was advanced to the full Senate and underwent a first reading. Of course, not all lawmakers are on board with the bill and many members of the House of Delegates were also at the rally to voice their opinion.

"For once, why don't we start listening to the people it impacts the most?" Del. Sean Hornbuckle said.

Lawmakers drafted the multi-part bill with help from consultants from other states. Their hope is to reform public education in West Virginia. Senate President Mitch Carmichael said West Virginia performs "near last" in the country.

However, students and educators were angry that lawmakers think the school system is failing students.

"I've got three children, ages 35, 25 and almost 15. How dare you stand on the Senate floor and say we failed?" West Virginia School Service Personnel Association Executive Director Joe White said.

Tracy White, Kanawha County Board of Education member, said lawmakers are the ones who need to do more.

"We have a lot of people that leave West Virginia. We have a lot of people that don't stay here. They come here and visit here, then they leave," White said. "So as I would say to the legislators behind me and to every legislator that occupies this building, 'if you want to see our kids stop leaving our state, if you want to see teachers stop leaving our state, if you want to see businesses stop leaving our state ... then do better.' "

Those at the event said they will be watching lawmakers very closely as the bill moves to a second reading on Friday.