And finally, because of declining federal dollars, we have a shortfall in childcare subsidies. Access to childcare not only assures young children receive quality early childhood development, but it helps parents keep their jobs. I believe in this program, and for that reason, I propose a supplemental appropriation of $17 million to preserve the current program.
We want our youngest children to read on grade level by the end of the 3rd grade. But this is just a start. We also are working hard to ensure every child who wants to attend college is prepared to do so-but not everyone is destined for college. In fact, many of the best-paying jobs now, and in the future, will require skills our vocational schools should provide.
We know most students who decide to drop out of school make the decision in middle school. They decide to drop out because they have not made a connection between their education and getting a job.
Most students learn best through real hands-on experiences-which is not what the current academic model offers.
There are a number of actions we can take to engage more of our students at an earlier age.
First, all students should be motivated to stay in school and be prepared for a good job. Workforce education should begin in middle school and more vocational training should be made available to students not planning to attend college.
Second, we need to make sure our students understand the opportunities available for good jobs in our State. Some of our largest employers tell me they want to meet with our students, and share with them what they need to do to be prepared to secure a good job. In order for our students to understand their opportunities, they should have access to counseling from our community and technical college staff and be engaged with employers who are prepared to hire qualified graduates.
Finally, quality vocational courses that prepare students to meet the high demands of today's job market must be a part of every school curriculum. To assure the needed quality, we must require every vocational school to have at least one program that meets the rigorous requirements of the "Preparation for Tomorrow" program of the Southern Regional Education Board. Whether it is Mechatronics in the Eastern Panhandle, Flooring in Central West Virginia, or Drilling in the Northern Panhandle, we will insist on quality certified programs.
If our schools prepare students for college and a career, every graduate will be ready to go to work in West Virginia.
More than two decades of research show the indisputable connection between teacher quality and student achievement. The overwhelming majority of our teachers do an outstanding job in their classrooms, but we must guarantee every student is taught by a great teacher. West Virginia is already blessed with almost 700 teachers who have earned National Board Certification in their areas of expertise and that number continues to grow.
Our State rewards teachers who seek and gain initial National Board Certification, but we do not provide the same rewards for those who re-apply at the end of their ten-year certification. That must change. And the State will pay for teachers who seek re-certification.
Education for our teachers does not end when they enter the classroom for the first time. Quality professional development for our classroom teachers must be provided on a continual basis. Governors and legislators have struggled over the years to make sense of our system of professional development for teachers.
The Education Audit found, and few would disagree, that our current system remains inefficient and ineffective. The State Board of Education should have the flexibility to oversee professional development. However, it should be delivered at the local level. Teachers should have a say because they know what critical skills they need to become successful in the classroom.
Good training and professional development are critical elements for having great teachers in our classrooms. But they are not the only ones. Current hiring practices in our State do not guarantee the best teacher is the one actually selected for the job. In fact, in many cases, it prevents otherwise good teachers even from qualifying for the job.
The State Board of Education currently is developing a new system of accreditation, so all schools will be held to higher standards.
If we are going to make schools more accountable for their results, we must give teachers and principals a greater role in selecting the colleagues with whom they will share that responsibility.
Our laws should require that superintendents give more credence to recommendations from principals and teachers about who they believe is best qualified to raise student achievement. In the end, it is not about the adults, it is about the kids.
Additionally, seniority always must be an important consideration, but seniority should not be the only decisive or controlling action of hiring practices. Other qualifications must count as well.
Finally, there are areas of critical need in West Virginia where qualified teachers are not available to hire, especially in the subjects of science, math and foreign languages. Where qualified teachers can be hired, there is no need for programs that provide these alternatives. But where we are unable to staff our schools with qualified teachers, we must make every effort to provide our students with the best possible teacher.
The Education Audit found no other State has so many laws that limit local initiatives including districts, principals, and teachers. There is no area where this is more pronounced than our school calendar. It has been the goal of Governors and Legislators for decades to assure our students have adequate instructional time. But it's just not happening. There are a number of reasons this does not occur, including the restrictions in State Code that provide little flexibility for school boards and communities to establish school calendars that meet their needs while guaranteeing adequate time.
As an example of the type of things we need to change in our Code, under current law, a snow day counts as an instructional day. We need to get back to a place of common sense in our approach to education. Otherwise, we will never get to an adequate level of instructional time. Instead, we will be stuck, like we were last year, where our students only averaged 170 days of instructional time.
Several schools in West Virginia already have addressed this problem by going to a balanced calendar. They have found students remember more, they have more time for enrichment and remediation, more opportunities to get a good meal, and teachers are less likely to become burned-out.
Let me be clear, my bill will not impose a new calendar on any school. It simply will free our local boards of education, in consultation with staff and the community, to design a calendar meeting the needs of adequate instructional time.
Beyond the school calendar, there are other issues we must consider. Over the past 30 years we have seen a 26 percent decrease in student population. I believe the community, especially parents, should always have access to locally elected officials who oversee their schools. But that does not mean we can and should provide all the current administrative overhead to each of our 55 county school boards. We must become more efficient.
Finally, we must have a comprehensive and consistent way to integrate technology and digital learning into our system. We must embrace opportunities like Project 24, an effort led by former Governor Bob Wise, that will enable our State to make the best use of technology to unleash our true potential. I am asking the State Board to embrace this opportunity.
During this legislative session, let's work together and take bold action so the next generation of West Virginians will have the passion, skills, and knowledge to change our world.
For over 40 years this country has wrestled with drug abuse. This is more than a social problem, it's an economic problem. Too many people who can't pass a drug test go somewhere else-somewhere where they don't test-somewhere where it doesn't matter. They're running out of options and so are we. Building a workforce that is not only educated, but clean and sober is something only our people can do for themselves.
Beginning today, we will carry the message: If you get high, you won't get hired-Drugs aren't working. I've setup a website: FaceYourFutureWV.com. West Virginians who need help with substance abuse, we want to help.
Joining me tonight are Kenny Perdue with the AFL-CIO and Steve White with the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, who for the past 20 years have been strong advocates for a drug-free workforce. I'm also joined by Steve Roberts, President of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Jan Vineyard with the Business and Industry Council. They are just a few within our labor and business communities who are showing their support for a drug free workforce. Please stand and be recognized for joining us in this fight.
We must continue to support our law enforcement officers and give them the tools they need to protect us, our families, and our communities. We know that driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious problem, but so is driving under the influence of drugs. Tonight, I'm proposing legislation to make it clear that officers have implied consent upon reasonable cause. When drivers who are under the influence of drugs are pulled over, they can be properly identified, tested, and removed from our roadways.
As governor, I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to witness firsthand the dedication that our law enforcement officers provide to the Mountain State and her people. This past year, the entire State of West Virginia grieved when we lost two beloved State Troopers. These two men lost their lives protecting us, and they will never be forgotten.
Tonight, we are joined by a hero - Deputy Sheriff John Westfall. As you all know, Deputy Westfall worked that tragic scene at the Wallback exit. John was injured, but he is recovering, and it's my pleasure to have him and his wife, Emily here with us this evening. Deputy Westfall, on behalf of all West Virginians, please stand as we thank you and every other law enforcement officer in the State for keeping us safe.
John, we continue to pray for you, for the family of Corporal Marshall Bailey, for the family of Trooper Eric Workman, and for all men and women who serve in law enforcement.
Just a few months ago, many of us watched in shock when flames ripped through a community near Sissonville leaving houses leveled and a part of our highway charred when a major pipeline exploded. It was a true blessing no one was injured or killed. We have learned from that explosion and the investigation that followed, that West Virginia's pipeline safety statutes are outdated-with weak penalties and enforcement measures. In fact, West Virginia is currently out of compliance with federal guidelines.
Tonight, I am proposing legislation to bring our State into federal compliance. I propose a maximum penalty of up to $200,000 per violation, per day. It is my hope by increasing penalties, we will meet federal standards and ensure overall public safety.
It's no secret that West Virginia's correctional system is overextended. Statistics now show the number of people in our prisons is increasing at three times the national average.
Last year, I brought together my colleagues in the Legislature, as well as judges, prosecutors, State and local leaders and research professionals as part of an effort to find a solution to our outdated and overcrowded prison system.
The Council of State Governments has succeeded in increasing public safety and reducing recidivism in states like Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. I asked them to help me construct a plan-keeping public safety as our number one priority. What we learned was simple: substance abuse is a huge part of prison overcrowding, and the high re-offending rate intensifies the problem.
We must act now to address these challenges. We must work to increase public safety and reduce habitual offenders. Their recommendations are projected to save the State of West Virginia over $116 million over the next six years while making West Virginia a safer place.
This past June we saw a storm like no other we'd ever experienced before. The derecho left a record 688,000 homes and businesses without electricity. Volunteer Fire Departments, 911 Centers, local officials, and the members of the West Virginia National Guard were there for us during those storms. And since the terrorist attack on September 11th, the West Virginia National Guard has deployed over 11,500 men and women overseas and we still have many members deployed today. These brave men and women continue to serve and protect. Tonight one of those soldiers is with us, Sargent Sara Yoke. Sargent Yoke was on a humanitarian mission to a village in Afghanistan where she and her fellow soldiers came under enemy fire. Because of Sara's bravery she received a Bronze Star and a Combat Action Badge for her service to our country. Please help me recognize Sargent Yoke, Adjutant General James Hoyer, the men and women of the West Virginia National Guard, and all veterans here tonight. Please stand and be recognized for your outstanding service to our nation.
West Virginia experienced an amazing and unforgettable year. It was not unlike our equally amazing and unforgettable history. The Mountain State was born during the national firestorm of civil strife; 150 years ago this year, West Virginia set out on its own journey, with hope and promise. We survived many challenges to get to where we are today-a place we call home. As we come together to celebrate our State's 150th anniversary on June 20th, let's celebrate our history knowing some of her best days lie ahead.
As Cass Gilbert's masterpiece rose on the Kanawha River testifying of an amazing breed of strong West Virginians, it also speaks of our remarkable past. And as Mr. Gilbert's final touches were put on this beautiful Capitol there was much debate about the inscription of words that would forever frame our hallways-and our philosophies.
In a letter from the State Capitol architect Cass Gilbert to then West Virginia Governor William G. Conley dated, July 1, 1931, Mr. Gilbert wrote:
'I think we would all agree that the great factors of good government are wisdom, patriotism and diligence, and the most effective of these would be wisdom...I would prefer wisdom to knowledge, for one who is truly wise gets knowledge from others.'
Let's again work together as we begin this legislative session and share these great factors of good government; wisdom, patriotism and diligence as we prepare and take action to move our great state forward.
Thank you, God bless you, God bless America and God bless the great State of West Virginia."