Manchin hopes to move education into 21st century

March 14, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Gov. Joe Manchin hopes President Obama's endorsement of increasing merit pay for teachers whose students perform in the classroom will help push reforms the governor has supported for West Virginia.

"We tried to give you all a chance over there by passing a bonus to where you could go out and give signing bonuses for math and sciences in the shortages especially that you have in the Eastern Panhandle -- (we) couldn't get that through (the Legislature)," Manchin said in an interview last week.

"Now to have the stamp of the president of the United States, who all of those (union) groups supported wholeheartedly, maybe we can move it forward, maybe we can finally move education into the 21st century," Manchin said of his administration's "progressive" efforts. "Because we're still trying to deliver ... education in the 21st century by the horse and buggy that's 150 years old."


Legislation has been introduced this year in the House and Senate that would give new teachers hired in critical-need areas, such as math and science, a tax credit in their first years of employment.

The tax credit proposals would cost between $687,500 and $1 million each year, according to a fiscal note by the state tax department that is attached to Senate Bill 265 and House Bill 2730.

Neither bill has moved in the legislative process since being introduced last month and referred to education committee members for consideration.

Manchin said the state's education system is in need of comprehensive financial review.

"We need to have a complete audit in the education system to find out why the money does not get to the teachers, why does it not get to the classroom, why do the students not benefit at the proportion that they should," Manchin said.

"If that's not true, then you have to dispel the myth. But right now, when you look at salaries (and) compensation, the further you get away from the classroom, the more money people make," Manchin said without naming any names.

Bringing investment to the Panhandle

Manchin signed an executive order Wednesday creating the Western Potomac Economic Partnership (West-PEP), a four-county cooperative initiative involving Berkeley, Jefferson, Morgan and Hampshire counties.

Manchin credited state Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, for "bringing all sides together" on the effort to create West-PEP, which was launched to market the four counties to the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area.

Manchin said the initiative is unique among other regional county marketing initiatives in the state.

"No one has the rich target environment of the D.C.-Baltimore beltway that you have," Manchin said. "I was proud to be a part of it and proud of the legislative team that did that."

"The Eastern Panhandle's got to want to help itself, that's the first thing," Manchin said when asked about what needs to be done to help make the area more business-friendly amid a discussion about the region's horse racing industry. "And tell them that you've got people there for their own personal interests that are tearing down the whole area.

"It's just a shame. It's such a beautiful place. There's so many quality, good people that really want to be progressive. There's a lot of people that like to keep everything status quo -- I understand all of that.

"All we're trying to do is to create a balance."

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