Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Tomblin Veto a Missed Opportunity ; Battle over School Calendar Just One Issue State's Educators Face

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Tomblin Veto a Missed Opportunity ; Battle over School Calendar Just One Issue State's Educators Face

Article excerpt

When Gov. Tomblin vetoed House Bill 4171 (concerning 180 separate days of instruction in schools), folks responded with one sensible question: Why? Everyone seems to agree the 180-day requirement has been an abject failure. No evidence supported 180 days as a magic number to greater achievement in the first place. Our experience confirms that. County calendars are thrown into chaos by the requirement. Families cannot plan on certain times off as a result.

Quantity trumps quality. Our indicators have not improved with a longer calendar, so why did the governor veto?

First, because while it may seem like we are all united in opposition to the 180-day requirement, certain key players support it strongly, namely the governor, the state superintendent, and the state Board of Education.

They chose to fight this battle over 180 days because it is part of a larger war in public education. The war is a power struggle between all the various state bureaucracies who seek control over classrooms the Legislature and the West Virginia Department of Education, in addition to the parties already named.

By drawing lines in the sand over a required number of days in class, constantly changing standards for teachers and which assessments to take, they seek to maintain their power in our centralized educational system. All the while, our students suffer as a result of this power struggle between adults who hold their education hostage.

Second, HB 4171 failed because the Legislature wrote the wrong bill. As a county Board of Education member, my colleagues and I on the local level begged state legislators for the past two years to fix the 180-day mandate by simply counting minutes in the classroom (as Virginia does).

That solution recognizes that quantity affects quality, allows families certainty with a calendar, gives counties flexibility to use minutes wisely as their own context provides and sets a statewide threshold (for those concerned that some counties will underachieve). …

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