West Virginia's education system is failing to prepare our students to compete in today's global economy. As a result, our state ranks last in the educational achievement of its citizens. Today, less than one out of every five West Virginians holds a college degree. In fact, as our state's population ages, we need to add 20,000 new college graduates by 2018 just to maintain the status quo.
Sadly, our state's schools are controlled by Big Labor and hindered by an educational bureaucracy in Charleston. Our resources aren't being invested in students in the classroom; they're being wasted on more staff and more programs at the Capitol.
When it comes to educating our state's youth, we get what we pay for. All the symptoms in West Virginia are of a broken state in education: low college attendance and completion rates, low high school completion rates, and mediocre test scores.
If we are to advance as a state, we need an education system that is flexible and accountable. Rather than having a one-size-fits-all approach mandated by Charleston's career politicians, labor bosses, and unelected bureaucrats, we need to return control of our schools to parents at the local level. By adopting charter schools, we can empower parents, teachers, and principals to make the best decisions for their students. And once education decisions are made by parents, teachers, and school leaders in local communities instead of in Charleston and Washington, we will see our students do better.
We must begin to hold teachers accountable for their performance in the classroom as well. Unfortunately, under West Virginia law, fantastic teachers who improve test scores and motivate students share a pay scale with poor teachers who are essentially taxpayer-funded babysitters. We must reward excellent teachers with merit pay. Those teachers who improve test scores and inspire students should be rewarded while teachers who consistently rank at the bottom of the profession must be removed from the classroom.
Finally, let's begin paying a premium for good teachers with rare skills. Instead of letting excellent math and science teachers leave for better paying jobs in the private sector, let's reward them with incentive pay for staying in the classroom. An outstanding calculus teacher shouldn't receive the same pay as someone who spends a lifetime teaching driver's ed.
As the parent of two young children who will soon enter our state's public schools, I'm committed to improving our education system so our schools are graduating students who are productive, educated, and employable, because an educated workforce is essential for a prosperous future.