Education, West Virginia Legislature

Three House bills address teacher shortage, creating pathways for veterans and aides, and for high schoolers eyeing a degree

MORGANTOWN – Teacher shortages continue to be a problem for much of the Mountain State, leading lawmakers to get creative in staffing its classrooms.

The House Education Committee approved three bills aimed at addressing the statewide shortage by creating pathways for veterans and teacher aides, and launching a long-term “Grow Your Own” program.

HB 3368 creates a state Troops-to-Teachers program. It enables retired officers and staff non-commissioned offers to obtain a teaching certificate.

The veteran must be honorably discharged, hold a degree related to the teaching position to be filled and a military instructor certification. He or she must pass skill and subject matter tests — each would receive a veteran’s preference on tests: 5 points plus another possible 5 points for a qualifying disability or Purple Heart.

Lead sponsor Delegate Bill Ridenour, R-Jefferson, said the bill has two aims: address the teacher shortage and draw on an available resource with valuable skill sets.

It goes next to Finance.

HB 2761 would allow a county school board to employ an aide with no less than 10 years of experience as a teacher, with the proviso that the aide complete a teacher prep course and get certified within three years, or graduate from a higher education institution and enroll in an alternative certification program.

Carla Warren, with the state Department of Education, told the committee the department will launch a similar but distinct program this fall for classroom paraprofessionals to obtain a certificate. Paraprofessionals are a step above aides, she said, with more training and more authority regrading teaching and supervising students.

The committee passed an amended version with some additional requirements proposed by the bill’s lead sponsor. The vote was not unanimous. It goes next to the full House.

HB 3035 creates the Grow Your Own West Virginia Pathway to Teaching Pilot Program.

The bill was multi-faceted, addressing reading and math education, but a committee amendment pared it down to just the Grow Your Own portion; committee counsel said the other aspects were already handled in separate bills moving through the system.

The three-year pilot program will provide a career path for those interested in education careers, starting from high school through a post-secondary degree. It will offer a dual-credit path to obtain an education degree after three years at an eligible institution, plus apprenticeship opportunities in the field and a classroom residency during the last year of instruction.

The Department of Education will report on the program annually to the Legislature and the state schools superintendent will recommend whether the program should be continued after completion of the pilot.

It goes next to Finance.

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