CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Tomblin signed into law Wednesday his education reform bill, a key initiative for this legislative session that he called for in his State of the State address.

“I’m extremely proud of the bill I’m signing today,” Tomblin said during the afternoon ceremony at the Capitol. “I believe it truly reforms our education system.”

The law makes significant changes in the operation of the state’s public schools, including the way teachers are hired. It requires students have 180 days of instruction and aims to improve elementary student reading skills.

The legislation survived intense opposition from the state’s two teachers unions, who argued the law contains too many “give-backs” they had earned over the years. However, leaders of both organizations stood with the governor during the bill signing and praised the bill.

West Virginia Education President Dale Lee used the opportunity to remind the Tomblin and lawmakers that teachers need a raise.

“We want to ensure that we have the top-quality teacher in every classroom and we have to address salaries to be able to ensure that our greatest teachers state in the state of West Virginia,”  said Lee.

A critical element of the new law changes how teaching positions are filled. Currently, hires are based largely on seniority.  The new law judges applicants on their qualifications and empowers the school principal, faculty representatives and the county superintendent to collaborate on the hiring decision.

The law also requires county school systems revise their calendars to ensure that they reached 180 days of instruction. Now, counties often fall short of that goal, especially during bad winters, even though snow cancellations are counted as instructional days.

The legislation aims to improve the skills of elementary schools students by requiring that all children can read on grade level by the end of the third grade.

These and other changes were pushed by the state Board of Education in response to an independent audit that pointed to failings in the school system, including a top-heavy bureaucracy. Critics of the new law said there’s nothing in the bill dealing with that issue.

West Virginia public school student achievement consistently ranks near the bottom in the country. The state also has a serious dropout problem, with one in four high school students failing to graduate on time.

There are other changes coming to education beyond the law. Tomblin has already charged the state board with bringing more technology and digital learning to the classroom.

 

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Comments

  • Teacher

    Thousands of teachers are needed to fill classrooms and the BEST solution anyone is coming up with is lowering standards and NON teachers. Shortcuts to teaching are NOT the answer... so why is it when MONEY is mentioned to attract a talent pool of QUALIFIED REAL teachers it is terrible. I do not hear the solution to shortages in ANY other profession to be lowering standards! But then teachers only have the responsibility of educating and the safety of CHILDREN so why attract the best....ANYONE WILL DO or that is the solution we are settling for now.

  • David

    "The legislation aims to improve the skills of elementary schools students by requiring that all children can read on grade level by the end of the third grade."

    And yet they will blame the teacher when the child/children aren't reading on grade level. This is where the parent/parents come into play. Teaching beings in the home. Parents have to do their part and make sure that the student is doing their job. My kids ride the bus for an hour, so that's their break, when they walk in the door, they know it's time for homework. After that they get to go outside and play, there is no Xbox, Wii, or watching tv, they go outside. Before you blame a teacher, make sure that you're doing your job at home, and checking the back packs!!!!

    • Jason

      Thanks for making this point! I've always said that the public education system can and will work if the parents get behind it and be parents. A parent is a child's first, and perhaps most influential, teacher. When I was growing up, my parents made sure that I did my homework and that I behaved at school. If I got in trouble at school, I was in trouble at home. The government tries to fix every problem with a legal solution and there is no legal solution to this problem. The problem is cultural one.

  • Big Jim

    When the students and parents are held accountable is when you will see real change. I have seen too many students who take AP classes, have great ACT scores, and go on to successful careers, but have terrible WESTEST scores. They would tell you that it means nothing to them and they could care less about doing well on it.
    I gave a homework assignment last night, 3 of 37 returned it completed. Yet that is considered my failure? How about kids who miss as many as 170 days a year. They show up the first day of school, the days before a break, and the days of the test, yet when they fail the test, it is my fault again.

  • a concerned educator

    My wife is a teacher, and she often works at night and on the weekends. If you go to her school on the weekends, the are usually other teachers working too. She does not complain about her salary, just the ridiculous amount of needless paperwork and policies, as well as parents who do not support their children regarding education.

  • Lea

    Anytime something with education is brought up in Government, teachers are always yelling about a pay raise. Those who elect to take a job teaching in a public school system are well aware of what they are going to be making when they accept the position, just the same as I was when I chose to take my job. I too am a State employee and would love a pay raise, but I knew when I chose to go down this career path that I was not going to get rich doing my job. I completely understand what all is entailed in a teaching position, I was raised by two teachers and have two siblings who are teachers. I am appreciative of teachers and respect them highly, especially the good ones. However, there are many other public employees who job is just as or even more demanding and dangerous as teachers who make much less than teachers. And these folks, never know if they are going to make it home at the end of the day or what time they will get home or get called out of bed. I just get tired of all the time hearing teachers cry out for pay raises!

    • Mark

      With that statement I am sure you will agree that when a waitress takes a job in that industry they know how much they are going to make and we as consumes should not tip them. Its just the way it is. I am sure we will get great service with that mindset.

    • Joe

      But Lea, many teachers have masters degrees and actually sometimes have to take work home with them and work on the weekends.

  • a concerned educator

    It's a shame that our politicians cannot see the real needs of our education system. Only then will a true educational reform occur.

    Who will the politicians blame next time when student succcess doesn't improve?