CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- We are failing our children. Education is a fundamental Constitutional right in West Virginia. And as a practical matter, children must be properly educated to gain employment in the workforce.
The unemployment rate among highly educated workers is 4.1 percent while the unemployment rate among poorly educated workers is 11.3 percent. Unfortunately, we are not providing our West Virginia children with the education they need. Education reform must be a priority. Children must be the focus of our schools today so they can be part of a well-educated workforce tomorrow.
Our current education success rates are disappointing. West Virginia students rank 38th in ACT scores. In fact, over the last five years, our ACT scores have dropped. Our eighth-grade students rank 47th in reading and math scores. If our children make it to college, 20 percent of those entering four-year colleges need remedial classes, and 69 percent of those entering a two-year program need remedial classes. Meanwhile, we spend $11,527 per pupil on education. That amount is up 28 percent since 2005. We rank 18th in per pupil instruction spending. And when compared to per capita income, we rank 4th in education spending. Our state budget is now 47 percent or $2.1 billion dedicated to public education.
Why is it important to outline these statistics, as bleak as they may be? For too long our focus has been on throwing money at schools without discussing outcomes. Lack of money is not the problem. Instead, we should set the goal of student achievement in the top 10 percent of the nation. Here are few suggestions for how we achieve this goal.
First, we should ensure that every possible education dollar is spent for student instruction in the classroom. We should not be spending over $230 million per year on administrators and bureaucracy. Rather, we should direct that money to the classroom where our children will benefit from highly qualified teachers who are skilled at helping students succeed in challenging, high-level courses.
Second, we should mandate 180 days of meaningful classroom time. While year-round school may or may not be a partial answer, schools should be allowed to schedule around weather patterns. However, when schools are open, quality classroom instruction is key. Movie days, pep rallies and staff development may be fun or necessary parts of the school experience, but they are not instruction. Counting these days as instruction only cheats our children. We should also move standardized tests to the last days of the school year, rather than offering very little instruction in the weeks after WESTEST.
Third, we should offer high level challenging coursework in every school. If teachers are not available, these classes should be offered via technology. High-level math, science and critical thinking courses should be required. We simply cannot compete to attract employers when our children are years behind other states in these critical education areas.
Finally, we should pay teachers more, but only if they help our children achieve more. Teachers should be evaluated on the basis of student achievement while in that teacher's classroom. And if achievement goals are met, that teacher should receive a $10,000 bonus to be paid for by adopting the efficiency savings in the recent education audit.
The goal is achievable. Our focus must be on the actual results of our education system. Our children our depending on parents and leaders to make sure schools prepare them today for success tomorrow. How many children will graduate ranked in the bottom of the country before we make the choice to reform education to focus on results?
Lane is a Republican delegate from Kanawha County.