Lee also took issue with Tomblin's bill for allowing the national Teach for America program to operate in West Virginia. The program places new college graduates in struggling schools.
Lee said state lawmakers should instead work on measures to keep West Virginia graduates from leaving West Virginia for teaching jobs in other states where they receive higher salaries.
"Our problem is an export problem," he said. "Clearly, in the long run, we have to address the salary issue."
Hale noted that Tomblin's bill allows schools to close and send large numbers of students to statewide basketball and other sports tournaments and still count the time as an instructional day.
"People need to decide what's a priority and what's not," Hale said.
State law already requires schools to permit students to leave school to watch high school sports tournaments. Tomblin's bill makes the practice optional.
Hale, a former middle school teacher, said Tomblin's bill ignores a key finding from an education efficiency audit released last year: The state Department of Education operates a "top-heavy, bloated bureaucracy." The education audit concluded that West Virginia has one of the most tightly controlled and centralized education systems in the nation.
"There isn't one sentence in the bill that deals with that issue," Hale said.
She said education changes must start at the Capitol Complex's Building 6, which houses the Department of Education. The department has declined to fill a number of administrative positions in recent months but has hired contract workers for the jobs.
"Maybe we should start with job descriptions. How many people are there and what do they do?" Hale said.
Unger, D-Berkeley, asked the governor's office to compile a list of Department of Education consultants and employee salaries.
"We have a bloated system sucking money out of the classrooms," he said. "If we want to do real education reform, we need to take it out of Charleston and put the resources where the students are."
Representatives of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Business & Industry Council told lawmakers Tuesday they support Tomblin's education reform bill.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.