State should pay more to get certain teachers
A one-size-fits-all pay scale robs kids of qualified instructors
The state has a shortage of teachers in certain subjects that is so serious that 1,700 teachers are teaching classes in subjects they have not mastered.
The House of Delegates passed two bills that would make it easier to get instructors who know their subjects into the classroom, even though they have not earned teaching degrees.
The proposals would allow experts in chemistry or a foreign language to get on-the-job training instead of going back to college to pick up a teaching degree. Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette, who sponsored the bills, thinks they could produce 590 much-needed teachers in five years.
Josh Sword, political director of the American Federation of Teachers, said his union supports the bills but he has low expectations for their success.
"We're supportive of it because it doesn't do any harm," Sword said of the bills. "We're just nibbling at the edges here. The real issue is being able to attract these folks with a competitive salary."
But Sword wants legislators to concentrate on raising pay for all teachers - again.
Last year, the state raised the minimum salary for teachers to $30,000 a year. That still left shortages in critical subjects.
Legislators should have stopped ignoring the needs of students and the realities of the marketplace decades ago and put qualified teachers in classrooms.
The state doesn't need to raise the pay of all teachers to make progress. Some vacancies are easily filled.
The state needs to raise the pay of people who are qualified in certain subject areas - linguists, mathematicians and scientists.
Delegate Walter Duke, R-Berkeley, told the Associated Press that in the Eastern Panhandle, where he lives, the state must compete with Maryland and Virginia for teachers - states that can pay an extra $15,000 a year.
It will be a long time until West Virginia can do that. For now, West Virginia needs to pay competitive salaries to fill the vacancies that are hardest to fill.