CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Improvements in student achievement and offering great teachers in every West Virginia classroom are goals education community members continue to champion.
But the best way to arrive at those goals remains contested, as evidenced Tuesday night during a discussion of the statewide education efficiency audit.
The massive report recommends more than 50 measures that could save the state millions of dollars while improving efficiency in schools statewide. Since its release last January, there has been little official action regarding the audit. Discussion, however, has increased as the 2013 legislative session draws near.
Several teacher and school employee unions spoke last month to the legislative committee discussing the audit. One returned Tuesday to provide more information, while organizations that represent school boards, county administrators and increasing student achievement gave their opinions.
The organizations tended to favor portions of the audit response that benefited their membership and oppose those that did not.
The West Virginia School Board Association supported giving more control of the system to local county boards. The audit states there is too much bureaucracy in the system, something Greg Prudich, association member and president of the Mercer County Board of Education, called "regulation strangulation" during his comments to the committee.
Over the next five years, the association wants to see more administrative powers returned to the county level. This puts the onus on local school systems to succeed, but Prudich said that's a welcomed challenge.
"Importantly, we realize that we will be held responsible for achieving the two chief educational system goals noted in the audit, namely to produce the best possible outcome for students and to receive the highest return on the educational dollars spent on public education," Prudich said.
It's one of five goals outlined by the association. The association also calls for greater emphasis on vocational training, better teacher pay, county discretion in creating the school calendar and a revitalization of the Regional Educational Service Agencies.
The goals are similar to those suggested by others during the meeting. Rick Hicks, executive director of the West Virginia Association of School Administrators, agreed with the idea of more local control and increasing RESA's ability to help local boards.
His notion of how to return control to the local level was not in line with that of Dale Lee, president of the teachers union known as the West Virginia Education Association.
In returning more control to local schools, Hicks argued principals would have better control over their schools. Staffing and school structure laws make it tough for a principal to do the best job, he said, adding that there are similar problems for county superintendents.