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W.Va. should rewrite its education laws

An audit of West Virginia's public education system made a strong case that the way the state currently runs schools produces unacceptable results for kids at high cost to taxpayers.

Auditors' recommendations excited members of the state Board of Education and member of both parties. The possibility of real change is in the air.

Not everybody wants it.

The West Virginia Education Association conducted seven "educator forums" across the state. It presented a report on those sessions to legislators on Tuesday:

* No to "merit pay" - better pay for better results.

*  No to giving more weight to student performance in teacher evaluations.

* No to reducing the weight given to seniority.

*  No to "differential pay" - higher pay for those qualified to fill math, science positions.

* No to extending the school year.

* No to mandating 180 days of instruction.

* No to giving principals more authority to hire and fire teachers.

* No to programs that allow college graduates without teaching degrees to teach in low-income schools.

"Is there any portion of the audit you agree with?" Senate Education Committee Chairman Robert Plymale asked WVEA President Dale Lee.

"It seems all the major things mentioned in the audit - all those things it said to do - you're against," said House Minority Leader Tim Armstead.

Lee said teachers want less standardized testing, higher pay for all teachers, smaller classes, and loan forgiveness and better scholarships for teachers.

Translation: Higher spending; less accountability; the preservation of hiring practices and work rules that protect teachers at the expense of students; and a salary philosophy that ignores market realities, protects weak teachers, and fails to reward excellent ones.

These are the policies that gave us what we have.

It's time the state wrote policies that meet its needs.

If the unions won't go along, the "contract" - whatever that is - should be considered null and void, and school law rewritten from the ground up.

The system we have is not working.

The unions pay no price for that.

The kids do. And so will politicians who fail to change failed policies.



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