Two of the 14 bills Gov. Joe Manchin put on the agenda for the special session of the West Virginia Legislature are of critical importance to educators - and thus, to Mountain State children. We encourage public school systems in the Northern Panhandle to address both measures as quickly as possible.
Both bills were expected to be approved by the Legislature. Because they were proposed by the governor, he is likely to sign them into law immediately.
One bill presents a challenge - but it is one we think area educators will embrace. It is intended to ensure that children in grades three and eight demonstrate that they have learned certain critical skills before they are promoted. Summer school classes will be provided for them, if necessary.
It is Manchin's other education bill that provides an enormous opportunity, however. It is his "innovation zones" proposal.
In effect, the measure provides that if selected schools seek to develop and promote "innovative educational strategies," they will be permitted to pursue them even if waivers of some existing state rules are required. A careful process to select and monitor innovation schools is specified in the bill.
Educators often complain - with reason - that existing state and federal rules make it difficult for them to improve. Sometimes, teachers and administrators are so busy trying to comply with the complexities of state and federal policies that they find it virtually impossible to try new approaches - even when such ideas have solid foundations in research. Manchin's bill is an attempt to give educators some latitude in that regard.
We urge Northern Panhandle educators to consider the opportunity - and it is just that - carefully. Innovation zones may not work in all schools, but we have confidence that many in our area would benefit from the approach.
We'd like to see schools in our area take a leadership role in innovation zones, as they have in so many other education improvements.