Governor Earl Ray Tomblin says he’s pleased with the pace his Education Reform bill is taking in the Senate. The state’s two teachers unions aren’t so happy.
The governor says the aim of the bill is to give students the best possible education.
“That’s the goal. That’s what we’ve got to keep in mind,” Tomblin stressed Wednesday at the capitol. “The whole education [bill] is about our children and to make sure they get the kind of education they need to be prepared for today and tomorrow’s workforce.”
Judy Hale, the president of the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers, says the bill should be all about what’s best for kids, but it’s not.
“We do not feel that this is true education reform,” Hale said.
Where the two sides differ on the bill basically comes down to how teachers are hired and a top heavy education system that pays administrators big salaries.
Hale says a perfect example took place at the state Board of Education meeting Tuesday morning where members of the AFT and West Virginia Education Association were protesting the bill. On the agenda was hiring a West Virginia Board of Education Director of Operations, a brand new position.
“They’re going to add to that top heaviness by hiring an individual that will work, as I understand, just for the state board of education members, at 104-thousansd dollars a year,” Hale said.
The average salary for a West Virginia teacher is $44,000.
Gov. Tomblin says his office and the Legislature have been reaching out to the unions, making sure they’re kept up to date on the latest with the bill and even getting their suggestions.
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve had lots of meetings, lots of discussions, lots of give and take,” Tomblin said.
The unions say Tomblin obviously isn’t listening enough because both unions oppose the new teacher hiring practices.
The bill proposes using outside groups to fill vacant critical need teaching jobs in the Mountain State. The bill no longer specifically mentions Teach for America. It instead would put the state Board of Education in charge of certifying groups like Teach for America to fill vacancies.
Hale says that makes no sense because just last year the Legislature approved a program called Teacher in Residence, where education majors here in West Virginia can get a job in the classroom while finishing off their student teaching.
Hale questions, “Why are we not pushing this home-grown, fully certified, committed to the community teacher from West Virginia and instead bringing in people from out of state who are not certified in field, who are not certified as teachers?”
The governor’s answer is simple.
“The only time we would bring in teachers from elsewhere would be when we’ve exhausted all means within the state to find a certified teacher to be in the classroom.,” Tomblin said.
The education reform bill passed the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. It now goes to the Senate Finance Committee and then to the Senate floor. If it passes, it will move on to the House.