Education reform bill leaves out private sector

West Virginians need all the help we can get to improve our public school system. A massive education reform bill introduced last week in the Legislature includes at least one failure to seek help from a source ready, willing and very able to provide it.

A 179-page bill introduced at the request of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin encompasses dozens of education reform proposals, some good and some not so good.

One section of the bill calls for new programs to further teachers’ educations, prepared by regional education service agencies and public colleges and universities. What’s wrong with this picture?

The proposal is incomplete, that’s what.

West Virginia is blessed by several public colleges and universities that possess excellent teacher preparation programs, even some good master’s degree and doctorate opportunities for educators.

But the state also has private colleges and universities with solid, sometimes outstanding teacher preparation programs.

Throughout the state, about eight private colleges and universities have teacher preparation programs, some of them with innovative master’s degree offerings. That could provide an important, very valuable addition to programs for educators offered at public institutions.

Government officials too often are willing to work only with other government entities, when possible. When that happens, the enormous amount of expertise available in the private sector is lost to taxpayers.

A school reform bill instructing public education officials, including the state Department of Education, to work solely with RESAs and public colleges and universities makes no sense. Educators at private colleges and universities are eager to help improve West Virginia’s public schools, too. Leaving them out of the process would miss an opportunity to advance school reform.

Tomblin should revise his proposal to enlist all the help the state can get from the private sector.