By MARY ANN HEATH
The Journal of Martinsburg
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Teacher salaries and accountability, the opioid crisis and school funding took the forefront as top education issues facing the state during the 2018 Legislative Lookahead Friday in Charleston.
The day-long event, hosted by the West Virginia Press Association, featured panels tackling statewide issues.
Panel members on education included Delegate Joe Statler, R-Monongalia, vice chair of the Education Committee; Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, House Education Committee; Christine Campbell, American Federation of Teachers; and Delegate Robert Thompson, D-Wayne. John Dahlia, NCWV business editor, moderated the session.
Panel members seemed to agree teacher salaries in West Virginia need to increase in order to retain and recruit quality professionals, but had different ideas of how to tackle the issue.
“We can’t cut our way into prosperity,” Campbell said. “We can’t cut education and think we’re going to see improvements.”
Campbell noted early in the session the state is facing a teacher shortage.
“We have 725 vacancies,” she said, adding that the state is “whittling away at qualifications” when it comes to hiring teachers.
“What are we doing to keep teachers and service personnel in our schools?” she asked.
One problem causing the shortage, Campbell said, is competition from other states.
“States around us pay $5,000 to $20,000 more,” she said.
Statler said more than half of the state’s budget is in the education sector. He said the state should look at efficiency in order to free up funds that could be put toward increasing teacher salaries.
“Look within the budget you already have,” he said, adding that schools need more autonomy.
“Travel across the state, they will tell you where there’s cost-savings,” he said. “Here’s what you have to work with. Develop the system that’s best.” …
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