West Virginia education reform bill reaches state legislature

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February 28, 2013

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: The education reform plan forwarded by West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) in his State of the State address reached both chambers of the West Virginia State Legislature on the same day. The bill arrived as House Bill 2725 in the House of Delegates and Senate Bill 259 in the State Senate. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Majority Leader John Unger (D), and is expected to be one of the major issues of this session.[1]

Tomblin's bill would expand preschool for 4-year-olds to a statewide program and allow schools to move to year-round schooling calendars, which is already practiced by some school districts in the state. The proposed bill would also require 180 days of schooling and remove the limitations on the 12 days set aside for teacher training and parent-teacher conferences. Finally, the bill would reform some teacher hiring practices, allow Teach for America candidates to fill teaching positions, and improve transferability of credit from high schools to colleges.[2]

The bill received some support from the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, but also a significant amount of resistance from teachers' unions. Both the West Virginia Education Association and American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia praised the expanded preschool measures, but had harsher critiques for the rest of the legislation. The reforms to hiring practices, allowing Teach for America instructors, and the lack of decentralization particularly raised the ire of the union leaders.[1][3]

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