Leaders discuss education priorities for pending session | State & Region

With the aim of attending “a positive (legislative) session for West Virginia on education,” the West Virginia Press Association and its executive director Don Smith hosted an education panel during the West Virginia Press Association’s 2022 Legislative Lookahead Friday.

The morning session, which focused on education policy, staffing and funding, attracted a large number of legislative, educational and media representatives.

The remote event, which included support from WVPA corporate sponsors AARP WV, WVU, and West Virginia International Yeager Airport, later included a panel aimed at discussions with the legislature, as well as a growth panel that looked at economic development, broadband and Examined infrastructure.

Del. Joe Statler, R-Monongalia and vice chairman of the House of Representatives Education Committee, said Friday he saw several proposals that could strengthen education in the upcoming legislature. “I know laws we work on can move this state forward and help our students tremendously,” said Statler, a 51st district delegate who is a former member of the Monongalia County Board of Education.

A law he highlighted would pave the way for assistant teachers to be accepted into grades 1-2 classrooms with more than 12 students nationwide. This bill, if passed, would affect 1,800 classrooms and require a $ 68 million investment.

Dale Lee, the 14-year-old president of the West Virginia Education Association, told Statler that he understood the goal of placing auxiliaries in more classrooms but cautioned that the potential for changing the number of students per class was on an upward trend Bahn would minimize all possible benefits of having an extra adult in the classroom.

Statler also discussed the investigation into the funding formula for the state’s colleges and universities, as well as an upcoming pay increase for public school workers that “wasn’t triggered by a request.” Improving government revenue forecasts would help pay for the increase, Statler said. In November, West Virginia posted a net income of $ 88 million, bringing its total net income for the fiscal year to $ 269 million in just five months, according to a recent press release from Governor Jim Justice’s office.

On December 16, Justice said he had secured the support of the Republican-led legislature to give a 5 percent raise to all civil servants, including public school teachers and service staff. The governor said all civil servants would also receive a one-time bonus of 2.5 percent to help combat the rising cost of inflation. The raise would “continue to serve our teachers and make education our centerpiece in West Virginia,” Justice said.

The raise and bonus will be submitted to the West Virginia legislature in the form of a bill, according to a press release. Legislative leaders announced that they intend to support the move during the upcoming session, according to the dismissal from the judiciary’s office.

Lee said the announced raise would be welcomed, but added that more needs to be done to address the ongoing shortage of teachers, bus drivers, cooks and other staff in school systems. “We need to make our salaries competitive with our neighboring states,” said Lee. “As long as we don’t make salaries competitive, we won’t be able to remedy this shortcoming.”

Funding to boost education could come from a portion of federal funds raised to help the state deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, Lee said. And after the money ran out, Lee said – referring to previous innovative zone programs – the goal should be “to fund the programs that work.”

In all of this, he pointed out, bring education guides around one table to find out everything. “Ask educators what changes need to be made.”

Lee also said that every effort must be made to fund PEIA in full after the judiciary. A bill has been tabled since 2019 and “it hasn’t even made it onto the agenda,” he said.

Dr. Erin McHenry-Sorber, whose research focuses on the internal and external structures and contexts that affect rural schools and communities and their relationships. McHenry-Sorber, Associate Professor at WVU College of Education and Human Services, was the lead author of a recent study that concluded that experienced, local school principals are key to recruiting and retaining quality teachers. The study was co-authored by Matthew Campbell, also an associate CEHS professor.

“Experienced principals can make a real difference in hiring teachers, especially in hard-to-fill locations,” said McHenry-Sorber, a former teacher, in a CEHS press release. “But from a political point of view, this also suggests that we need to think more about how to keep the principles.

“There’s a suggestion that it’s really important to have a localized pipeline from teacher to administrator.”

She and Campbell interviewed eight school principals in six school districts in West Virginia over a four month period in 2020 of and Responses to Place Influences on Teacher Staffing in West Virginia, ”published in the Education Administration Quarterly.

McHenry-Sorber and Campbell, who have been studying teacher shortages since the 2010s, chose to focus the current study on school principals. They looked at schools ranging from “large swaths of state-owned land to those in coalfields.” They also analyzed schools’ proximity to teacher training programs, outdoor recreation destinations, and places that have historically been economically troubled.

While alternative avenues to certification are a controversial issue, Campbell said, the need to fill vacancies leads school principals to use every tool available to find teachers to teach their students. “The path to certification has become more diverse and accessible,” said Campbell. “The problem is that we haven’t helped these people stay in this career for a long time. And so they go and we’re back to where we started.” The key is to find people who will invest in local schools and communities, they emphasize.

Senator Ron Stollings, D-Boone, a physician who serves on the Senate Education and Finance Committees and the Provisional Education and Finance Committee, commended the WVPA and panelists for highlighting educational issues leading up to the meeting. Among other things, he suggested using Covid-19 funds to strengthen the WV Birth to Three early intervention program. He also said that child welfare needs “a great deal of optimization” and that worker issues need to be better addressed.

“The haves will be fine,” said Stollings. “The people who live in poverty will not be them.”

The lowering of the surveys in areas such as coal and gas settlement taxes and income taxes will make it more difficult to finance necessary social programs, he stressed. “I hate being a Debbie Downer here, but guys, we’ve got a lot to do.”

On Friday also took Del. Ed Evans, D-McDowell County, 26th District, a member of the House Education Committee and the House Interim Education Committee, as well as a retired science teacher. Evans said one of the keys to advancing education is to assess and reflect on how issues have been handled in the past. He also said that, as in many other areas, recruiting young workers is obviously a must. However, this is becoming increasingly difficult as different universities have canceled different teaching programs in recent years. “We’re losing left and right programs,” said Evans. “We’re losing our youngest.”

Another panelist, Dr. Mirta Martin, President of Fairmont State University, discussed metrics used in addressing performance-based funding formulas for higher education. The aim is to produce “professional graduates” without placing too much financial strain on the institutions that produce them. She also noted a recent report that found that 17 percent of students who considered enrolling in their school chose not to attend college, at least in part because of the pandemic. “That’s a hell of a lot of students who are outside of our pipeline,” she said.

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