WEST Virginia's public schools struggle to fill some teaching positions, so some students struggle along with substitute teachers or
people teaching subjects they aren't certified to teach.
Because a far-ranging audit of the state's education system found it wanting, many people hope state leaders will shake off the political barriers to improving the system.
One of the points of contention will surely be "alternative certification." In rough terms, the idea is to allow chemists to teach chemistry, native French speakers to teach French, and retired accountants to teach math without undergoing time-consuming courses to get education degrees.
The audit suggested the state consider making alternative teaching certificates easier to obtain.
This attracted the attention of the Teach for America program, which tries to place high-achieving college graduates in classrooms in poor areas. They must go through a training process and pass state certification standards to enter a classroom, and must make two-year commitments.
Were West Virginia to welcome the program, the state could have a broader, deeper pool of applicants for teaching positions. State code would have to be changed to allow that to happen.
As Will Nash, executive director of Teach for America in Appalachia, explained to the Daily Mail's Dave Boucher, West Virginia's current alternative certification rules "require so many hurdles they're really not options. They're nonstarters from the beginning."
Teach for America has hired a lobbyist, Frank Hartman, who himself went through the program, to explain it to state officials.
Teachers union officials aren't sold. They contend that raising teachers salaries is the best way to get good teachers, and say Teach for America recruits don't stay long.
"There are just some things that don't fit in West Virginia," said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association.
Nash counters that 92 percent of its recruits stay for their second year, compared to 86 percent of all new teachers.
State policymakers should go into this discussion with open minds. West Virginia's current policies are not giving many students the preparation they need to thrive, nor is the state getting the work force its eco-nomy needs.
The current system is not working. The state should not hesitate to try other approaches.