Justice’s bill address math teacher shortage, offers financial incentive

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice’s bill to pay teachers more who are willing to get additional training in math was introduced in the state Senate Wednesday, but it may be changed to make it more enticing.

The measure, SB 327, would provide a one-time $2,000 payment to teachers who take specialized mathematics courses developed by the state Department of Education.

According to the bill text, “The purpose of this bill is to provide economic incentives for mathematics teachers in public schools who complete a specialized mathematics course approved by the Department of Education.”

The bill would create a system where current math teachers get some additional instruction so they could teacher other areas of math.

There’s currently a significant shortage of certified math teachers in certain areas of study.

“We have right now approximately 25 percent of our Algebra I classrooms that are taught by non-Algebra I certified teachers. That’s unacceptable,” state School Superintendent Dr. Steve Paine told members of the House Finance Committee Wednesday. “We also have in Math I, which is an integrated math approach, about 25 percent or more of those classrooms taught by non-certified.”

State Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said he’s thankful for the governor’s bill but believes more could be done to attract additional math teachers.

“We may want to do a more structured approach to those areas where it’s built into their salaries,” Carmichael said during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.” “Maybe its $2,000 every year.”

Paine said the current math certification situation is a “crisis.”

“We need to do something to attract more kids into the math teaching profession, into the teaching profession,” Paine said.

He told the Finance Commission about the “Grow Your Own Math Teacher” program the state Department of Education is discussing.

It would allow a high school student to earn an associate degree before graduating, where they would take all of their math content. After high school, the student would take two years of college and then head into the classroom with a math degree. Paine said students taking part in the program would be required to commit five years to the state. He said a current state scholarship program could be revised to help students with their tuition costs.

Paine said he believes the program would get more math teachers into the state’s classrooms quicker.

“We really need to hone in on math,” Paine said.

Carmichael said the teachers’ unions in West Virginia have been against incentive pay proposals in the past. He said they’ve favored more across the board pay increases. He said he hopes they will agree with paying math teachers more.

“When we’re failing in math and we have areas of uncertified math teachers teaching courses to our children and scoring poorly — let’s do something about it,” Carmichael said.

SB 327 was assigned to the Senate Education Committee first and then to the Senate Finance Committee.

Twitter @JeffJenkinsMN

JJenkins@wvradio.com

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