Less than two weeks until the 2013 Legislative session gets underway here in West Virginia and one of the top items on Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s list to tackle is education reform.
An independent education audit was completed last year. Tomblin plans to use that as one of his guideposts as he heads into the session and his State of the State address set for February 13th.
He says it’s time for a change.
“My primary focus is on student outcome and to make sure they’re getting the kind of education they need,” says Tomblin.
The audit made dozens of suggestions like merit pay for teachers, a less top-heavy Department of Education and more control on the local level.
One of those changes is something the governor favors.
“We’ll be looking at the local control and hopefully shifting some more of that control back to the local level rather than having one size fits all,” explains Tomblin.
That’s a goal both the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia Federation Teachers both agree on. But Tomblin admits the unions are not on board for some other reforms. That’s why he says he plans to work closely with both to try and come to some sort of compromise.
“I think [the unions] desire the same thing that the people of the state wants and that’s to have a better education system, better outcome for our students,” according to Tomblin. “They, I’m sure, are just as disappointed as a lot of people when our students do not leave school with the kind of education or the kind of skills that they need to be productive.”
One of the suggestions in the audit is merit pay. That is not a topic up for debate with the unions. They say on that subject there’s no room for compromise.
Tomblin admits it won’t be smooth sailing passing education reform.
“It will be an ongoing process but I think there will be some major changes made during this upcoming session,” says the governor.
House Speaker Rick Thompson has put together a committee to focus on the audit and determine which suggestions would improve West Virginia’s schools and which ones just won’t work.