The West Virginia Legislature's passage Friday of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's comprehensive education reform bill is significant for several reasons.
As has been pointed out many times, it empowers schools to build their teaching teams with the most qualified applicants, not just the people with the most seniority. For the first time, teachers will be part of the hiring process.
The legislation requires 180 days of instruction.
Educators are quick to point out that it's the quality of instruction that's critical, not the quantity.
That's true, but time in the classroom is still important, and the current calendar makes it extremely difficult to meet the 180.
The bill calls for greater emphasis on reading at grade level through the third grade and creates career paths starting in middle school for students more interested in a job skill or a technical degree at a community college.
But beyond the critical structural changes, there is also an overriding message that's detailed and implied in the bill: The state Board of Education and the local county school systems are in charge of delivering a quality product.
That should be a given. However, over time the state board ceded its control to the Department of Education bureaucracy and the Legislature.
Local school boards have been hamstrung by a top-heavy system where work guidelines were detailed in state law, limiting flexibility.
Passage of the reform bill is a critical first step, but now the real work begins.
A less-talked-about aspect of the bill authorizes the state board to devise a new accreditation process for public schools.