The head of the West Virginia Federation of Teachers says the legislature and the Tomblin Administration have a tremendous opportunity to change the state’s education system for the better. However, Judy Hale says there are key steps in the process.
She believes the top priority of any reform should be the reallocation of the money already being spent on education in the state.
“Taxpayers in West Virginia have been very generous to education, I don’t think there’s an issue about being enough money for a pay raise. I think there is an issue about how that money is distributed,” said Hale.
Governor Tomblin has already proclaimed there will be no pay raises with so much pressure on this year’s budget. Hale believes there’s plenty of money for raises without any new funding. She is critical of top-heavy administration in the RESA’s, the state Department of Education, and among county administrators.
“We need to take the RESA money and put it in the counties,” she said. “We need to put it at the school level where principals and teacher leaders should be making decisions about what should be done in that school.”
Governor Tomblin is expected to base his education reforms at least partially on an education audit of the state. The results of the audit are startling about the state’s education system.
“Why don’t we take this audit and use it as an opportunity to redistribute the money that is available ,” Hale explained. “So we can begin to have competitive pay and put highly qualified teachers in our classroom.”
The teachers unions have sacred cows of their own. Using seniority as a pay scale has long been basis for teacher pay. Some believe it should transition to merit pay with bonuses and other lucrative ways to improve the salaries of educators. But Hale defends the seniority status as a pay scale.
“There is no research that says any kind of seniority law improves academic achievement,” said Hale. “Doing away with it, making it more, there’s no research that says it’s going to approve academic achievement.”
She said the union would be more inclined to support some of the more controversial measures, such as year round school, if it is the will of the schools and the community to go in those directions and to apply for innovation zone programs to implement those measures.