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Public school measure may not change much

Given the scandalous nature of public education - very low achievement at very high cost - many West Virginians hoped for blow-the-doors-off reform this legislative session.

That didn't happen.

Instead, it appears that a Democratic-controlled legislature worked harder to minimize offense to education unions than it did to multiply the options available to help children succeed.

It's a bit of a disappointment.

West Virginia leads the nation in per-pupil spending but scores 49th in student achievement. An audit suggested the state strike much of its stifling legislation and regulation and authorize new approaches that might work.

Hold teachers more accountable for results? Make it easier to cull ineffective teachers?

Let Teach for America recruit fresh college graduates to fill a few dozen critical vacancies? Allow

charter schools that are free to try new ways to reach at-risk kids?

Let the state recognize the reality of supply and demand and pay more for specialists in math, science and language, who are harder to come by?

No. Working with union reps, the state Senate "simplified" a seven-point hiring formula that protects seniority into an 11-point checklist controlled by teachers that will likely to do the same.

Yes, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's signature legislation will give county school systems 48 weeks to deliver 180 days of instruction instead of only 43, which will allow more flexibility in scheduling.

The measure also creates full-day pre-kindergarten statewide. That may help some kids, but it also creates jobs for unions that are losing members as enrollment plummets.

House Majority Leader Brent Boggs called the measure "an outstanding piece of legislation," adding: "It's fair. It's bold. It's innovative."

Mannix Porterfield of the Register-Herald in Beckley wrote that House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, praised teachers and school service personnel for working with lawmakers on the measure.

"Their only concern was what was best for our children," Thompson said.

"It's a very comprehensive bill," said House Education Chair Mary Poling, D-Barbour.

Some West Virginians won't see it that way.

They hoped for a bold new day in education. Kids deserve it, and the state's economic future depends on it.

Instead, many will see this session as one in which Democrats once again voted to preserve the status quo politically instead of leading change economically.

That may end up being the wrong move.

 


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