The legislative priority is additional class aids for the first and second years
West Virginia lawmakers will consider a range of educational policies, including adding classroom aids for younger students.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw R-Clay said funding the aid was a top priority for him. He cited public investments to support higher levels in recent years, but said it wouldn’t pay off if younger students didn’t have enough support to prepare.
“What I do know is that the problem is the student-teacher ratio in those early years,” Hanshaw said during a participation in a legislative preview panel Friday.
“That’s where my support comes from. It’s about making sure that we don’t send the kids to the upper grades to enjoy the things that we’ve been trying to do over the past four years in such a way that they can’t reap the benefits.
The aid funding would be intended for the first and second year classes.
Delegate Joe Statler, deputy chair of the House Education Committee, also described this support as a priority during Friday’s legislative anticipation event sponsored by the West Virginia Press Association, AARP West Virginia and the West Virginia University Academic Relations Office.
“Overall, this bill will be extremely productive in this state as it allows for more one-on-one with students,” Statler, R-Monongalia said.
“We know that building the foundation of education is essential, so these students have what they need, especially in reading skills to move forward. “
Statler described the effort as building on the success of preschool programs in the state.
The financial projection is $ 68 million, Statler said, affecting about 1,800 classrooms. He said the state’s education ministry and others were working on preparing the legislation. The 60-day ordinary legislative session begins next week.
“If you have more than 12 students in the class, you will need to have an assistant in that class,” he said.
West Virginia Education Association president Dale Lee said he hopes the policy will really reduce class sizes.
“My concern for Delegate Statler is that I understand the desire to put classrooms aids, teaching assistants,” Lee said. “I hope you’re not going to increase the size of the classrooms, the size of these classrooms, to do it. “
Higher education financing formula
Statler also said the House education committee will consider a new funding formula for colleges and universities. A formula could provide more certainty than the ups and downs of the traditional budget process, Statler said. “This will be another bill that will really help,” he said.
“I think this will bring some stability to our higher education institutions,” he said. “I think this will provide them with some clarity on the state’s expectations in terms of how we want to allocate our resources to higher education institutions.”
Fairmont State University President Mirta Martin described the significant progress made by higher education leaders by examining how the formula works.
But Martin warned that the covid-19 pandemic has brought about so much change in society, the economy, and education that it’s difficult to define what success in higher education should be.
“We are concerned that this is a very difficult time to implement a performance-based funding formula,” said Martin. “We just don’t yet have a benchmark against which to measure our future in an ever-changing present. “
Statler also alluded to the pay rise for public employees promised last month by Gov. Jim Justice. The salary increase described as an average 5 percent increase would affect teachers statewide.
“The good thing is that it was not triggered by any request,” he said.
Lee of the West Virginia Education Association said the increases could help the state recruit and retain employees in the education system.
“We have to deal with shortages. We know there are teacher shortages, service staff shortages, our bus drivers, our cooks, our guards, wherever we have shortages, ”he said. “We need to make our salaries comparable to those of our contiguous states. “