Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education reform plan introduced Monday in both houses of the West Virginia Legislature received positive reviews from the state Board of Education, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and several legislators from both parties.
However, Tomblin's 179-page bill did not receive the same level of support from the state's two largest teacher unions. "We're disappointed," said West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee.
Lee's and West Virginia Federation of Teachers President Judy Hale's criticisms not withstanding, there are several features in this bill that would give schools the tools now lacking to put the best available teachers in the classrooms.
Seniority, now the deciding factor in hiring teachers, would not be eliminated but would become just one of several equal determining factors in the hiring process. Teachers working in a particular county would not automatically be given preference over an applicant from another county.
Teachers with seniority certainly are not necessarily unqualified for another position that opens in their county. However, in too many instances they are not as qualified as another applicant. However, this other, more qualified, applicant cannot be considered. This hurts students and is a recipe guaranteed to keep kids from reaching their potential.
This isn't the only proposal in the governor's bill; it also includes provisions to allow "Teach for America" participants to land jobs in struggling schools, and the governor's call for expanding preschool, all worthy suggestions.
Not all of the teachers unions criticisms are invalid. The state Board of Education is a bloated organization and Tomblin's bill doesn't mention any streamlining there. Some of the money now paying the countless number of assistant superintendents in the state board office could be better used in the counties, in our opinion.
However, putting the best qualified teacher in a classroom should be the top priority of every teacher in every school district in the state and is vital for the long-term success of students.
Tomblin's proposal would ensure this happens.