by Martha Sparks
It’s understandable that teachers unions, who helped write much of West Virginia’s education law, would react with alarm to the dismantling of some of that strangling overregulation.
The unions have said there’s no evidence that some of the changes Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin suggested after a nearly year-long wrangle will work, and that what the state proposes to do is the opposite of what research would indicate.
But before everybody gets his or her head turned around by discussions taking place in the Legislature, there is ample evidence of one indisputable fact:
West Virginia’s current education law is not working.
No matter how much money taxpayers have put into it — we spend more than $3 billion a year now and get national recognition for the adequacy and fairness of school funding — West Virginia’s public schools are failing to prepare far too many kids.
Too many children fail to learn to read by the third grade and get their hearts broken in junior high and high school.
Too many kids drop out of school. Many of those who graduate require remedial classes in college or are unprepared to benefit from vocational programs. Too many of West Virginia’s employers can’t find the qualified people they need for well-paid positions.
This cannot continue. It threatens young people’s economic futures and the future of the state as well.
The changes that wound up in the governor’s bill would loosen the state’s regulatory stranglehold and give local boards of education, principals and teachers the flexibility they need to deliver better results.
The state would require counties to offer five-day, full-day pre-kindergarten, require that all new elementary teachers be certified to teach reading, allow weather-challenged counties to schedule so they deliver 180 days of education, give principals and faculties a little more leeway in selecting teachers, and more.
No, there is no certainty that pre-K will produce lasting educational results, that flexibility in scheduling will improve learning, or that principals and faculty senates will always make the right choice.
Legislators could pick this bill apart and watch it die.
Then we would have certainty.
But its name would be failure.
— Distributed by The Associated Press
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