No Excuses

Certification rules should not be relaxed

We have watered down the quality of public education in West Virginia more than enough during the past few years. Good for a tiny group of state senators for saying, “Enough!”

Much has been said and written during recent weeks about the state’s inability to provide enough certified teachers in public schools. One widely-repeated estimate is that more than 700 vacancies exist.

But an attempt by some legislators to deal with the problem was misguided. In effect, it was to conclude that if we cannot find enough certified teachers, we will just relax certification requirements.

Under current rules, aspiring educators who do not possess teaching degrees can obtain alternative certification if they have an “academic major or occupational area the same as or similar to the subject matter” which they are being hired to teach. That seems a reasonable approach to finding more people to educate our children.

But last month, the House of Delegates approved a bill, HB 4407, that would have diluted the standard for alternative certification. The “related academic major or occupation” requirement would have been dropped. Candidates still would have been required to pass subject matter tests.

The line between formal training and/or related occupation and enough knowledge to pass a content test is a fine one, in some ways. That may have been why the House approved the bill in a 50-48 vote.

But, as six state senators recognized, a line does exist. During a committee meeting this week, they voted not to recommend the bill for passage in their chamber.

The vote was by the thinnest of margins: 6-6. But to advance, HB 4407 needed a majority vote, so it appears dead for this session of the Legislature.

Enactment of HB 4407 probably would not have resulted in a major decrease in the quality of our schools — but it would have been one more in a series of cuts in quality and expectations from our students.

West Virginians need to be thinking of ways to make our schools better — not get more excuses about why we have to settle for less.