The Times West Virginian

Opinion

March 24, 2013

West Virginia education reform must not stop with passage of one bill

Education has been at the very top of the agenda since the start of the ongoing legislative session in Charleston.

Now, legislation that will, among other things, change how West Virginia county school districts hire teachers, free up more days on their calendars to bolster student instruction and require full-week schooling for 4-year-olds, has been sent to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature.

The status quo was simply not going to prevail this session.

Education dominated Tomblin’s State of the State address in the wake of the state’s Education Efficiency Audit that contrasted hefty spending — the proposed budget will devote $2 billion to public schools, or 46 percent of general tax and lottery revenues — with poor student performance rankings.

The report criticized regulation of West Virginia’s education system, its administrative overhead and laws that don’t allow for innovation.

Change was virtually inevitable.

The House of Delegates passed the legislation (SB359) Friday by a 95-2 vote after proposed amendments offered the previous day were voted down. The Senate had earlier unanimously passed the bill.

The legislation requires the Department of Education to trim non-classroom personnel costs by 5 percent in each of the next two budget years.

Tomblin said the “landmark legislation” will make things better for students and educators and ensure “all public education will be delivered locally, not by Charleston.”

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for the bill. Teachers’ unions were against the original version, which de-emphasized the role seniority would play in teacher hires and would have allowed Teach for America — a program that places new college graduates at struggling schools — to operate in West Virginia.

The bill was revised, removing Teach for America and giving seniority weight in hiring decisions.

Under the new legislation, teachers would be hired using 11 factors. Seniority is one of nine that would get equal weight. The other two factors — principal and faculty senate recommendations — would receive double weight.

The bill expands the yearly school calendar from 43 weeks to 48 weeks, giving schools more flexibility to make up snow days and lost classroom time and helping to ensure students receive the 180 days of instruction mandated by the state.

It also advances several key goals in Tomblin’s drive to improve West Virginia’s low-ranking student achievement scores. One aims to ensure that high school students finish their junior year ready for college or career training, with remedial courses offered for those who aren’t ready while they are seniors.

No one expects the bill to be perfect. Republican Delegates Marty Gearheart of Mercer County and Larry Kump of Berkeley cast Friday’s no votes.

“I’m concerned about the state Board of Education still being too top-heavy and with too much authority over local schools,” Kump said.

House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, voted yes but said the bill doesn’t shift enough power from the Department of Education to local schools.

“I don’t think it’s bold; I don’t think it’s comprehensive,” Armstead said. “But we can be bold and comprehensive if we continue to work on this issue. We still have a lot of work to do on education.”

Indeed, that’s the belief we hope prevails on both sides of the aisle. More knowledge will obviously become available after the legislation is implemented, and reform is not a one-year process.

“No bill does everything we need to do, but this bill does a whole lot of good things,” said Delegate Josh Stowers, a Lincoln Democrat who’s also an assistant principal. “This is going to be good for kids. ... We did something good this year.”

We agree and understand there will be more work to be done in future legislative sessions if the education system is going to be the best it can be — one that West Virginia students deserve.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • COLUMN: Freedom of Information — if you can pay

    Several years ago, I made a Freedom of Information request to a local government agency. Within the five business days, as required by law, a packet of information was delivered to the office. I expected a bill, as most government offices have a charge that ranges from 25 cents to $1.25 per page for copies of the documents we request.

    April 20, 2014

  • The reassuring spirit of Easter: One of new hope and beginnings

    During the sub-zero and snow-filled months of winter, we maintained a spirit of hope that spring was on the way. It has now become a reality as all nature stretches and yawns and awakens once more to a new beginning. The fragrance of spring awakens our waiting nostrils, the budding beauty of new life brightens our eyes, and the reassuring idea of renewal stimulates our minds.

    April 20, 2014

  • Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated

    Thankfully, we live in a community where help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by dialing three numbers — 9-1-1.
    During this week, which is recognized as National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week nationwide, we need to remember that on the other end of that line are the men and women here in this county who are always there in case of accident, crimes, medical emergencies and any other catastrophic event.

    April 18, 2014

  • Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives

    A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
    Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
    The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.

    April 17, 2014

  • State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary

    Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
    For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
    Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.

    April 16, 2014

  • Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better

    When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
    So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.

    April 13, 2014

  • COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable

    Instant.
    That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
    But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
    Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!

    April 13, 2014

  • Decision to be an organ donor can save lives

    Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
    So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.

    April 11, 2014

  • Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community

    Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
    Marion County is full of volunteers.
    They read to our youth.
    They assist nonprofit agencies.
    They serve on boards and committees.
    And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.

    April 10, 2014

  • Proposed school calendar lives up to letter and spirit of law

    West Virginia state law requires that students be in a classroom for 180 days.

    April 9, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads