By Earl Ray Tomblin
During my service as your governor and as your longest serving Senate president, I have had the great privilege of working on some very important legislation. Over the years, we’ve passed bills that have kept our children safe, cared for, and opened the door to better opportunities through education.
And now, I will soon be signing a landmark education reform bill. Working together, we forged consensus making student achievement the foundation of changes to directly improve our education system. These changes are real and will make a difference in the lives of our children.
All the parties involved in the crafting of this legislation shared one belief: they all believed our kids deserve the very best education possible. And by working together, a bill was passed that will help ensure our children are better prepared for their future.
The legislation will make sure all children are taught by great teachers — like those who have been described as “well ahead of the curve in implementing the latest instructional strategies,” and “always going above and beyond for students.” We will support National Board Certified Teacher recertification, provide loan forgiveness to those educators willing to teach in critical need areas, and give our schools and teachers the power to determine the type of professional development training they need to best help students.
We’re empowering our teachers to assist with the hiring process. Teams of faculty members will help choose the new teacher who can best meet their students’ needs.
We’re providing local school boards more flexibility to work with their communities to schedule a school calendar that meets their needs and the mandatory 180 instructional days.
Our schools will no longer be judged on tests alone, we’re now going to include other factors like graduation rates and vocational and technical class completion. These changes put our kids first.
We aren’t done with education reform, but we have made significant progress. I’ve also asked the State Board of Education to address other facets of our system’s shortcomings and to encourage a strategically planned use of technology and digital learning in the classroom. I will soon issue additional executive orders to focus on other education related issues. Please know I plan to continue on the path to getting our kids an education that makes them competitive for their future careers.
Developing a system that provides children with a great education requires a team effort. I’m very grateful to the coalition of education leaders at the legislature, in the State Board of Education, in our teachers’ unions, business community, and in every hometown across our great state. Senate Bill 359 is a symbol of a collaborative effort and enhanced opportunities to come for all West Virginia children.