Legislators and unions were more agreeable to Tomblin's proposal to increase access to career and technical programs for younger students. Most students who consider dropping out do so in middle school; he proposed bringing more career and technical programming into middle schools to keep those students engaged.
Revamping the state's vocational offerings is crucial to training all those students whose interests do not lie in college, he said. That means ensuring that every vocational school has at least one program that meets the "rigorous" requirements established by the Southern Regional Education Board.
Tomblin also said the state would pay for all nationally certified teachers to reapply for certification. The state pays for the initial application now, but no re-certification in the future. Lee and Campbell said that was a way to ensure quality certified teachers were in the classroom.
The state pays for teachers to seek and receive national certification. Tomblin wants the state Board of Education to pay for the re-certification every year, as a reward for success.
Campbell also liked Tomblin's proposal to expand preschool programs for 4-year-olds.
"Although our 4-year-old kindergarten program has high ratings, only 68 percent of eligible students attend," Tomblin said. "I will introduce legislation requiring ever county, within three years, to offer full-day 4-year-old preschool."
Campbell, who is from Pocahontas County, has two children. One went through a preschool program and one did not. The one who did was more prepared for school, she said.
Finding ways to increase the effective use of technology in the classroom could be vital to improving scores, Tomblin said. The state will "embrace opportunities" that successfully mesh technology with curriculum. He specifically mentioned Project 24, a program championed by former Gov. Bob Wise.
Wade Linger, Board of Education president, viewed the speech from the balcony seating. He said he and other board members appreciated the emphasis on education.
"I think he literally hit all the bases. And I think he did it in a way that we can get support from all the groups involved, including the Legislature," Linger said. "We're just anxious to get to work."
Legislators will start to introduce bills today. Any education reform measures will have to go through Poling's committee. Members of both parties have called the committee a hurdle to reform.
Poling challenged that idea Wednesday.
"I find the input of teachers to be input from experts. Just like the input of the attorneys are the experts in judiciary, the bankers, such as the chair of finance and business people on finance are considered to be experts," Poling said, discussing other House committees.
"Why are the teachers disregarded as the experts on education? And the committee members aren't all teachers."
Delegate Suzette Raines, R-Kanawha, is new to the House this year and one of 11 Republicans on the committee. She thinks the members will be open to change in education, and encouraged others to look past political motives when they discuss legislation.
"I am optimistic that the people in that committee will realize what an urgent challenge we have before us," Raines said after Tomblin's speech. "Put party affiliations, memberships with outside organizations afterward. That is not why we are here. We are here because there is an urgent need to address the needs of students."
Last week Tomblin pledged to have all bills to the Legislature within 10 days of the start of session. Alsop said there would be 19 substantive bills, one budget bill and nine supplemental bills coming from the governor's office. He anticipated an education bill to be introduced early next week.