Despite Slowdown, W.Va. Governor Sees School Spending as Needed Investment
Faced with a forecast of only minimal growth in state revenues in the coming fiscal year, Gov. Bob Wise of West Virginia said in his first State of the State Address last week that the state must nonetheless put more money into improving education.
"We cannot have economic development, we cannot fulfill our other responsibilities, without first making West Virginia truly the education state," he said in his Feb. 14 speech. "Our passport to prosperity is education."
To improve education, the governor said he wanted to increase teacher pay and provide incentives for teachers to become certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. He proposed giving every West Virginia elementary and secondary teacher a $1,000 raise, starting next Jan. 1, and providing teachers with national certification an extra $2,500 in salary.
Mr. Wise, a Democrat who unseated Republican Gov. Cecil H. Underwood in last November's election, said he wants schools to teach lessons that reflect the state's values. To that end, he proposed $750,000 for character education in fiscal 2002.
To enhance school safety, he said a toll-free, statewide "school safety hot line" would be fully funded by the state.
Mr. Wise, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 18 years before becoming governor, said he planned to propose a bond package for school facilities.
"We need to get education out of trailers and into real classrooms," he said.
College Aid Proposed
To help students move on to college, Gov. Wise said he was including $6 million in the fiscal 2002 budget proposal he unveiled last week for a West Virginia Higher Education Grant.
He said he would allocate money for the state's "Promise" scholarship, which was approved by the legislature in 1999 but never funded, by legalizing and taxing payouts from video lottery machines. The governor also called for full funding of state grants to low-income students for higher education.
The new governor pledged to form a statewide council on college preparation to recommend improvements in the state's schools.
Vol. 20, Issue 23, Page 14