New Law Goes After West Virginia Teacher Shortage: A Win for WV’s Students
Teacher Shortage in West Virginia
The teacher shortage has hit West Virginia, just as it has the rest of the nation. Because of the shortage, West Virginia parents may be surprised to find that there is a real chance their public school attending children are not being taught by licensed teachers. In fact, according to the West Virginia Department of Education, the state was short about 2,000 teachers at the beginning of the recent school year. But the state’s legislature has made moves to ensure that West Virginia’s teacher shortage no longer runs rampant. Putting certified teachers in front of each classroom is the new goal.
Recently, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R) signed into law legislation that now allows for an easier transition into the teaching profession. Prior to the signing, there were two ways to become a teacher in West Virginia. These included holding an education degree or going through a local county school created alternative certification program. However, education degrees are prohibitively expensive, as is the development of local alternative certification programs. Additionally, degree-granting programs require time and scheduling commitments that many working professionals find difficult to meet.
Although limited and burdensome routes to certification have exacerbated the teacher shortage in West Virginia, the new law brings new options.
The new law (SB 14) adds another pathway to certification. Introduced by Senator Patricia Rucker (R – Jefferson, 16), the law allows locals to transition to a teaching career without the additional hurdles typically imposed. Speaking to the need of the bill she introduced, Senator Rucker said “We have hundreds of West Virginia students not being taught by certified teachers.” Consequently, “this bill is a necessary additional avenue towards having certified, high-quality teachers in our classrooms.”
Senator Rucker has long been a champion for West Virginia’s students. As Chair of the Senate Education Committee, her leadership and advocacy for West Virginia’s students has been unparalleled.
Moreover, the state’s Republican caucus prioritized teacher certification this year in an effort to give all of West Virginia’s students access to fully-certified teachers. Under this directive, the bill sailed through the legislative process. It passed the House with a 68 yea and 27 nay vote (5 absent) and passed the Senate 25 to 9. Subsequently, the bill was one of the first non-COVID bills to be signed by Governor Justice this legislative session.
The new law allows people to use their professional knowledge to earn certification. The law streamlined certification requirements to three simple steps. To earn certification, candidates must
- Hold a bachelor’s degree and pass a background check.
- Complete pedagogical training.
- Pass the state subject matter test (currently the Praxis).
Upon completion of these requirements, locals can become full-time teachers in West Virginia schools. The law becomes effective 90 days after Governor Justice’s signing, which means it applies beginning May 27, 2021.