Teachers take Gov. Wise to task

February 07, 2002

Teachers take Gov. Wise to task

By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - Teachers and school administrators took Gov. Bob Wise to task over several of his education proposals Wednesday, including a requirement that county school systems offer students 180 days of instruction or risk losing state funding.

About 18 teachers and administrators from Eastern Panhandle school systems talked with Wise during a education roundtable discussion at Martinsburg High School.

Martinsburg High School teacher Sylvia Fries said the governor's proposal to reduce funding for school systems that don't offer 180 days of instruction amounts to a "double penalty" because school systems are already struggling to get enough state funds.

School officials suggested that one way to guarantee 180 days of instruction are offered is to move up the start of school.


"The start time and stop time for schools has to be changed," Berkeley County Board of Education member Bill Sonnik told Wise.

Wise said he would be open to different proposals to insure kids get 180 days of instruction.

"Fair enough, I don't pretend what I've put out there is written in stone," said Wise.

But Wise said it's a proposal he intends to keep pushing.

Wise said he doesn't like it when his children don't make it to school for 180 days and added that other states have found ways to insure their students go to school for 180 days.

"I'm a bit determined on this," said Wise.

School systems sometimes drop below 180 days of instruction because of bad weather, and county school systems in the state now average about 177.3 days of instructional time a year, Wise said.

Under Wise's proposal, school systems must keep their students in school for 180 days or risk losing 2 percent of their Step 7 money for every day under 180 days of instruction.

Step 7 money is used for instructional improvements. Each county receives a base amount of $150,000 with additional money given for other criteria, Wise said.

Wise also proposes a pay raise for teachers that would average about $1,200 per teacher.

Peggy Miller, personnel director for Morgan County Schools, said the $1,200 doesn't go far enough because some county school systems in Maryland are offering pay raises of between $3,000 and $4,000 to teachers this year.

Wise said there are other factors that teachers need to consider.

Public Employees Insurance Agency premiums are increasing for state employees, but money was set aside to pay for the premium increase for teachers, Wise said.

Wise said he realizes that it's tough for Eastern Panhandle school systems to compete with salaries being offered in neighboring states, but some of the inequities may never be completely resolved.

"I don't know that we could ever compete with Loudoun County (Va.) on money," said Wise.

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