House Speaker Rick Thompson on Talkline

House Speaker Rick Thompson says he thinks the 2013 Regular Legislative Session will be an important one for West Virginia’s education system.

“Truly, we all understand, I believe, that the education system has some problems that we need to look at,” Speaker Thompson said on Thursday’s MetroNews Talkline, a day after he was selected to again lead the state House of Delegates.

In his speech to the delegates Wednesday, Speaker Thompson, who represents Wayne County, said the state’s education system is on “the brink of an overhaul.”

He called on House members to familiarize themselves with the more than 50 recommendations for reforms in the Governor’s Education Efficiency Audit to prepare for the proposals Governor Earl Ray Tomblin could offer starting next month.

Among other things, that audit found West Virginia has one of the most bureaucratic school systems in the entire country, with too much controlled from the top, and does not do enough to reward and retain good teachers or adequately prepare students for the workforce.

Speaker Thompson says that needs to change.  “I truly expect us to get major education reform through the Legislature this session,” he said.  “It’s one of the most important issues out there right now.”

Mercer County Board of Education President Greg Prudich says any reforms to the education system need to start with returning more control to local school officials.

“There’s a  lot of tinkering around the edges going on.  But the truth of the matter is, if we really want to change education in West Virginia, the first step is to quick strangling counties with regulations and statutes,” Prudich said.

He was at the State House, earlier this week, to talk with lawmakers about the audit’s results on behalf of the members of West Virginia’s 55 boards of education.

“We are prepared to embrace, not only embrace, but lead the change that needs to be done to improve their education opportunities,” Prudich said.  “Our constituents are our children and we need to make sure that we get the best possible public education that we can provide them.”

Speaker Thompson says the problems with education are large, but he says the Legislature has addressed big issues in the past.

“I like to wrap up issues and I think this one’s an issue that I feel very strongly about.  There are so many in this state interested in the education of our children,” he said.

The 2013 Regular Legislative Session begins on Wednesday, February 13th.

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