West Virginia lawmakers are ready to get to work on fixing the state’s education system.
“Throughout these last four or five months, every time we’ve gone everywhere and talking to my colleagues, education has been brought up as the No. 1 thing,” said Senate Education Committee chairman Bob Plymale. “I think we’re ready.”
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin outlined his plan to improve the education system last week in his State of the State address, and now it’s time to implement that plan. Plymale said improving kids’ reading skills earlier in life is a big goal.
“Research tells us if you can’t read at the third-grade level in the third grade, we lose you exponentially through the system,” said Plymale.
Plymale said the career and technology issues facing middle school students are crucial as well.
Tomblin proposed a plan through the Prep For Tomorrow Program to build legislation requiring every vocational school to have at least one regional program.
“We have to put more of a focus on vocational education,” said House Education Committee vice chairman Josh Stowers. “The workforce demands it, our business leaders demand it and our economy demands.”
Stowers is excited to see more in regard to Tomblin’s plan for expanding the 4-year-old kindergarten program to all counties, thereby luring more kids into preschool.
“To me that is one of the most critical things we can do, is get these kids a solid foundation in education,” said Stowers. “Make sure kids, regardless of what county they’re in, are able to get the right start that they need.”
But education reform doesn’t just involve the students, it also involves the teachers, and Stowers agreed with Tomblin’s assertion that there is too much emphasis on seniority when it comes to hiring teachers.
“We shouldn’t discount seniority, because I believe there is merit into what seniority brings to the table. However, it shouldn’t be the only thing,” said Stowers.
Lawmakers will be busy considering multiple education reform proposals from Tomblin as the session continues. Plymale said he believes they are compelled to make improvements.
“We’ve had the audit for a year and a half and obviously we need to increase student achievement,” said Plymale. “I think he’s laid a good blueprint out to where we can move forward.”