By JOE MANCHIN

CHARLESTON -- The goal of last month's special session on education was to produce meaningful reform.

Statistics show that our nation's education system is not on the same level as other countries. In addition, students in West Virginia lag behind their peers in other states. We're facing a generation of students that is projected to have lower educational attainment than their parents.

If we intend to provide our children and grandchildren with the same opportunities that we had, we must act now to remedy this problem. Our children can still have a bright future, but we must properly prepare them for the jobs and opportunities that await them.

I introduced seven bills that were recommended by the Special Education Committee, and while I am disappointed that we could not agree on all of them, I am pleased with the several pieces of legislation that were passed which will improve our state's education system.

SB 2006 gives schools the freedom to replace certain traditional school committees with collaborative teams. By granting schools this flexibility, administrators, teachers and parents, can work together to determine how to best meet the specific needs of their students.

Two other bills include pilot projects that will help improve academic achievement through community involvement and alternative education for disruptive students. SB 2009 addresses the needs of low-income students by establishing a special community development/school pilot program for implementation in schools with significant enrollments of disadvantaged, minority and underachieving students. Schools will partner with higher education, the state Board of Education and community organizations to help increase student performance.

SB 2010 allows for up to five pilot programs in elementary or middle schools that employ alternative placements for disruptive students. This bill will benefit all students in the classroom and allow teachers to focus on curriculum.

All of these bills have the potential to improve the delivery of education, and I am confident these programs will have a positive impact on our students and education system.

I also believe that more can be done to improve education in West Virginia. I will continue to work diligently with the members of the Legislature and our education leaders across the state to achieve education reform.

This is an issue that we must continue to address if we expect to compete in the 21st-century economy and I remain firmly committed to making sure it is our top priority.

Manchin is governor of West Virginia.




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