The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 16, 2013

Our Readers Speak — Saturday, March 16, 2013

Weakening seniority will lead to nepotism

— I am so tired of listening to political leaders constantly spreading the outright falsity that West Virginia teachers are hired merely on seniority. They are either content with publicly lying, or woefully ignorant of West Virginia law.

Constantly repeating a lie does not make it true! State law includes seniority as one of seven hiring criteria and each must be weighted equally. Furthermore, if one is not certified in the field, that person is stricken from consideration if any other applicant has certification — regardless of seniority.

For the governor, legislators, and those former first ladies on the State Board of Education, I kindly direct your attention to West Virginia Code 18A-4-7a. It’s in black and white.

It is astounding how critics of teachers and our schools keep insisting this is reform and in children’s best interest. The current hiring process was education reform, by Gov. Caperton, to make sure we had a fair, objective system to hire the most qualified teachers available.

Current so-called reform argues that removing objective criteria and returning to the “good ol’ boys” system of days past will improve our children’s education. (Of course, looking at how many spouses, cousins, children and buddies politicians have on the government payroll, I guess it makes sense why many of them favor a system of patronage and nepotism.)

If the governor and Senate are interested in obtaining the most highly trained and qualified educators available, why propose using “Teach for America” (college graduates not even having teaching degrees) and removing the requirement that school superintendents even have a master’s degree in education?

In the ’90s, West Virginia had one of the highest rates of teachers certified in their teaching field. Now, we’re at crisis level finding fully certified teachers. Why not invest money attracting our own “best and brightest” to go into the teaching profession with loan forgiveness for agreeing to teach in West Virginia for five years or more? Why not make it easier for certified teachers to obtain additional endorsements in shortage areas?

Seven different alternative certification paths currently exist to become a West Virginia teacher. Why water down the profession by allowing those with no formal education training to be put in the front of our classrooms? Don’t our students deserve better? Our children deserve the most highly trained dedicated teachers possible — not the political buddy or relative of somebody in charge or a novice with no expertise or training in the field.

John Quesenberry