Leave education reform law alone

Last year, after much debate and consternation, the West Virginia Legislature passed SB 359, a comprehensive education reform bill.  The new law is aimed at improving upon the state’s Constitutional requirement of providing a thorough and efficient education.  Consistently low test scores show we’re not measuring up.

As with any reforms, they must be given time to work, which is why the West Virginia House of Delegates is now headed in the wrong direction on HB 4394.

That bill, which originated last week in the teacher-dominated House Education Committee and is backed by the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers, seeks to roll back some of the most meaningful changes the new law makes in hiring procedures.

Before last year’s reforms, filling teacher vacancies was heavily weighted in favor of seniority.  Administrators were increasingly frustrated by a system that did not allow for the flexibility to hire the most qualified person, rather than just the most senior.

SB 359 changed that, and for the better.  It empowered schools to use up to three faculty members to work with the principal to hire the best person.

This year’s House bill is an attempt to pull back to the old days.  The proposed modifications would tie hiring to a scoring matrix based on nine criteria that would be subject to review by any disgruntled teacher who doesn’t get the job.  Start queuing up the grievances.

WVAFT and its members should be celebrating the new law, not fighting it.  Teachers are constantly clamoring, and rightfully so, for more control over their classrooms.  Now they have the power to actually help decide who is most qualified to join them at their schools to help ensure that children are getting the best education.

No, it’s not a perfect hiring system.  There never is, but that’s what the grievance system is for.  Obvious wrongs can be corrected.

Let’s at least give the law a chance to work, and the best way to accomplish that is for HB 4394 to either be stopped or amended to take out any provision affecting the filling of vacancies.

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