Saturday, April 1, 2023

From Behind the Podium: Education Reform on the Senate Slate


The Governor’s education reform bill (SB359) has been the center of much debate since its introduction in our chamber earlier this week. Unlike previous attempts at education reform, this is a comprehensive bill that I believe will be more conducive to brining about true change than the earlier piece by piece approach.

All of us in state leadership understand that we have not gotten the expected return on our investments in education recently and I do not blame the many excellent teachers currently working in West Virginia. We need to thin out some of the red tape and bureaucracy in the system and give our teachers and local school boards the autonomy to do what they do best.

In an effort to get students ready for college or the workforce, the bill would  require the state Board of Education, the Higher Education Policy Commission and the Council for Community and Technical College Education to collaborate to formally adopt specific college-readiness and career-readiness standards for math and language arts. It also would require a 12th-grade transitional course in math and language arts for those students deemed not on track for college.

The measure would provide for local control of the school calendar, would establish a 200-day employment term for teachers and requires 180 days of “actual instruction.” It proposes public meetings for discussions of a school system’s calendar and requires the state board or state superintendent’s approval for proposed county calendars.

Some other highlights of the bill include:

  • Requiring early childhood programs to be offered five days per week for a full day and a licensure requirement for all kindergarten and pre-k teachers and aides.
  • Allowing Teach for America participants to become classroom teachers, along with creating a “critical need alternative teacher certificate.”
  • Allowing county boards of education to consider hiring recommendations made by school principals and faculty senates and would also make the hiring process more flexible by allowing released employees to be hired for specific vacancies prior to the jobs being posted.
  • Outlines loan assistance for teachers in critical need areas if they meet certain criteria.

These are just a few of the many reform measures in the bill. Before even considering a vote, the Senate Education Committee is planning to spend an entire meeting going through the bill piece by piece and fielding any and all questions pertaining to the bill. We want to do our best to ensure that all stakeholders thoroughly understand the specifics of this measure.

I am hopeful the Senate will pass this measure in the next couple of weeks, allowing the House ample time to consider it.

If you would like to follow the daily action of the Legislature, visit the 81 st Legislature on the web at

I hear your voice and I encourage all of you, regardless of party or affiliation, to contact me with any concerns you have regarding issues facing our district or our state.

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