Teachers deserve more than they are getting – And so do our children

If there’s one thing the past week has shown us here in West Virginia, it’s that teachers are passionate about their job. Some will argue with that and ask, If teachers are really passionate about their jobs why don’t they go back to work? Those who think this are missing the point.

Teachers are striking and staying off the job because they love their job so much they want to be able to stay in it until they can retire. They don’t want to trade their job as a teacher for one as an oil and gas worker, where they could make more money. They don’t want to trade their job to live in another state where they can make better money. They want the legislature to make their job profitable enough that they can stay here, raise a family, and educate future generations without having to work two or three jobs just to get by.

Anyone who has ever spent any time with a teacher knows they work their butts off. I’m not talking about spending a few hours in the classroom to supervise a Valentine’s Day party. I’m talking about spending 24 hours with a teacher.

Their job doesn’t stop when they leave the school. Their job doesn’t stop when the school bell rings at the end of the day. Their job doesn’t even stop when they lie down and try to go to sleep. They deserve more consideration, in the form of benefits and pay, for the amount of time and effort they put into educating our children while we work. And that doesn’t even take into account all the education they need and are required to have in order to do their job.

They don’t deserve to be degraded and disrespected, as our current leaders in the Senate have been doing. Senator Carmichael seems to think this is some kind of game that he’s going to win if he doesn’t blink. Senator Karnes thinks anyone can be a teacher, according to a statement he was caught making on Facebook live. Perhaps those who homeschool all of their children don’t really understand what education truly is about. Karnes also does not seem to know how many kids our teachers actually have to teach. I think if one looks at the average class size in our county, one will see it’s close to 25 or more.

Maybe Senator Karnes should get out and find out what his constituents are really all about. Maybe he should listen to the people who voted for him, instead of passing special interest laws that don’t mean anything to the average Upshur County citizen.

I don’t have any idea how this story will turn out. I’m glad I’m not a fortuneteller and can’t see the future because I might not like what I see. But I hope that we’ve all learned at least one thing from this walkout — that we need new leadership in Charleston. I’m not talking about Democrats, I’m not talking about liberals, I’m not talking about progressives or even independents, and I’m not ruling out Republicans. But we need fresh new ideas. And we need people who are not beholden to big money like oil and gas and pharmaceuticals.

I think the people in Charleston right now have forgotten that they serve the people of West Virginia, not just business. We truly need some reform to attract new business, but we don’t need to give away the whole state to do that. And we don’t need to be afraid that business will leave if we attach an additional tax here and there.

Let’s not forget that these businesses have already received an enormous tax break from the Federal government. There has already been a tremendous amount of investment made by these businesses, especially in our oil and gas resources. We are supposedly the Saudi Arabia of North America for natural gas. Do we really think they’re going to leave because we ask a few percent increase in taxes?

Our oil and gas severance taxes are the lowest in the region. Moreover, taxes are part of the cost of doing business. Alaska collects large severance taxes from its oil and gas producers. The people in that state get a yearly dividend check in the thousands of dollars from those companies. We’re not asking for that. We’re just asking for our basic services to be funded and our children to be taught by the best there is. And that means paying them fairly for the work they do.

When you go to vote this year, think about who you are voting for, what and who they stand for, and who is paying for their candidacy. Our grandchildren, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren deserve that much. Vote with some knowledge and intelligence so that your community, your state, and your country can thrive beyond our lifetime and into the lifetimes of those who come after us.