Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin made it clear in his State of the State address that public education is THE top priority this legislative session.
Tomblin cut back on the laundry list approach to accomplishments and challenges that normally makeup the State of the State and instead used five of the 13 pages of the speech to talk about education reform.
It's difficult to get an exact read on how far his reform plan reaches. We won't see all the specifics until the bill is ready in about a week, but Tomblin did outline some of the key elements.
* Increased accountability for schools, teachers and principals for outcomes.
* Revising hiring rules that make it easier to hire the most qualified teacher rather than simply the person with the most seniority.
* Adopting alternative qualification programs to help fill critical need positions in science, math and foreign languages.
* Flexibility in school scheduling to ensure that students actually get 180 days of instruction.
* Shifting more decision-making authority from Charleston back to local school boards.
* Renewing the emphasis on reading by guaranteeing that new elementary school teachers are specially trained in the discipline.
* Enrolling all 4-year-olds in a full-day preschool.
And Tomblin plans to accomplish these goals by shifting money within the education budget, not with new spending or tax increases.
This is a defining moment for public education in West Virginia.