The Jackson County Board of Education last week joined with others across the state in opposition to a sweeping education reform bill making its way through the West Virginia Legislature.

Meanwhile, members of the state’s three education unions on Saturday gave their leaders approval to call for a work stoppage should they deem it necessary to protest the bill.

Local union leaders and members attended the board’s meeting Thursday to voice their support of the board’s opposition to Senate Bill 451. These included the presidents of the American Federation of Teachers – Jackson County, the Jackson County Education Association, and the Jackson County chapter of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association.

JCBOE president Bobbi Ferrell said West Virginia’s education community should have been involved in the creation of the legislation. While the bill may contain positive elements, she said, it also contains the potential to have a negative impact on education in the state.

“I just hate that there wasn’t any collaboration in the production of the bill,” she said.

The bill was passed by the Senate – some say much too quickly and without proper review – and has moved into the House of Delegates, where it has faced closer scrutiny as well as amendment. Should the bill change for the better in the House, the JCBOE could revisit its stance, Ferrell said.

JCBOE vice president Jim Frazier said he has grave concerns about the legislation and its potential impact on students in West Virginia.

“I’m in support of these organizations who are here tonight,” Frazier said.

Other boards of education to oppose the legislation include Upshur, Randolph, Harrison, Fayette, and Boone counties.

AFT–Jackson County president Tanya Asleson said the state’s legislators who participated in the bill’s rush through the Senate were doing a disservice to education in West Virginia.

“The lack of respect show to educators, superintendents, and boards of education by the majority of our elected officials is what has us here now,” she said.

Union representatives at the JCBOE meeting said the opposition to the bill is not about pay this time around. Rather, it is about the damage the bill could do to students if passed.

After passing the Senate, the bill passed the House Education Committee with a recommendation that it go to the House Finance Committee, where it can continue to be amended.