Tomblin’s education bill is nearly 200 pages of reforms - WBOY - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Tomblin’s education bill is nearly 200 pages of reforms

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Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education proposals put everything on the table but with a decidedly heavy thud, as the one measure containing all the reforms clocks in at 179 pages.

Tomblin spent a full half of his Feb. 13 State of the State address speaking to the state's need for changes to the public education system, and 13 days into the 60-day regular legislative session, his ideas arrived on Feb. 25 in the Senate.

Education reforms have historically stalled in the House of Delegates, where more members with education backgrounds have had plenty to say.

The proposed bill affects 39 sections of state code. It creates five new sections of code, repeals six sections and amends the rest.

One of the observations from the education efficiency audit Tomblin requested last year was how much of the state's education system is tied up in state code.

Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, described the bill as comprehensive and said it would put an end to all the "picked around the edges" of attempted education reform in years past in a piece-by-piece way that didn't gain much ground.

"I think it helps to do it in a more comprehensive fashion," Kessler said. "I think there's a commitment and an unspoken commitment at this point to be receptive to education reform.

"I think we all recognize that we have not gotten the bang for our buck, that our education system is not delivering the quality of education, and I don't blame the teachers; we need to be sure we keep some of the bureaucrats and the Charleston dictates out of the classroom and let them do what they do best."

Senate Education Committee Chairman Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, said he's planning for the committee to spend an entire meeting going through the bill and asking questions without even considering a vote to be sure all the members fully understand everything within the measure.

Kessler said he's hopeful the bill will complete legislation within the next month.

"I think if we can get it out in the next two or three weeks, that would certainly give them ample time over 30 days or so to consider it as well," Kessler said.

To read the bill as it was introduced, click here.

The bill includes requiring 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 language arts and math.

It also would require a 12th-grade transitional course both for language arts and for math for those students who are "not on track to be college-ready," according to the bill as it was introduced.

The measure also would require the state Board of Education to require all teacher preparation programs to include "appropriate training for teaching adopted standards in at least grades eight through 12" and also would establish new criteria for state accreditation of public schools.

The bill proposes kindergarten and early childhood aides to be licensed and also would require early childhood programs to be offered five days per week for a full day, which was one proposal Tomblin mentioned during his State of the State address.

The idea of flexible school calendars also was touted during Tomblin's address, and it's in the bill.

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

The bill asks for county policies to add minutes or days to school calendars for any time lost within that instructional term and calls for "limiting non-instructional interruptions to instructional day."

Tomblin's proposal would allow Teach for America participants to become classroom teachers, along with creating a "critical need alternative teacher certificate."

The bill would allow county boards of education to consider hiring recommendations made by school principals and faculty senates and would make the hiring process more flexible by allowing released employees to be hired for specific vacancies prior to the jobs being posted and allowing for multiple postings within a 30-day period.

The bill proposes eliminating the 43-week restriction of service personnel contracts and clarifies the length of teachers' duty-free planning periods.

The measure also would clarify that not all holidays would be counted as a day of employment term, snow days would not be counted as days of employment or days of instruction.

The bill also outlines loan assistance for teachers in critical need areas if they meet certain criteria.

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