The legislative session will begin this week. I had the privilege of sitting down last week with our new Delegate Lori Dittman to discuss issues I feel important to our community and society in general. While Brent Boggs will continue writing for the paper as he has for the past 26 years, I extended the same opportunity to Lori. She was very receptive and I am hopeful she will share her experiences with us as time will allow.
Lori has impressed me with her devotion to her students and her intense teaching skills. I am very optimistic that she will apply those same traits as she represents our delegate district. I told her I didn’t think it would be easy. The deck is stacked a little against her. She is a new delegate. It takes a while to learn the ropes in that hectic environment. In addition, I have come to realize that today’s legislative structure is more clannish and self-centered than normal… and believe be I think it’s always been that way. At any rate there are a number of serious issues I hope this legislature till tackle head on. Brent touches on some of them in his column. Lori will definitely have her hands full, and I wish her well as she tackles the obstacles and opportunities of her new position.
I didn’t attend the session last week hosted by the WV Press Association call the Legislative LookAhead. I did read some interesting accounts of those sessions. One of the things they talked about was that teacher shortages are getting worse. The article stated that there were 1544 vacant teaching positions in our state. That’s scary when you think about what students will miss in their education.
Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that students are not going into the teaching profession. In fact, there is a substantially drop in the number of students attending higher education altogether. I’m the first to say that college is not for everyone and we need to improve other means of getting people trained for the workforce. However, some college or at least a good level of secondary education is needed for success. Even the best plumber or welder, needs to be able to communicate verbally and in writing to maximize their earning potential.
One of the articles I read talked about the dis-respect and low pay for teachers as being part of the reason why more where not going into the field. I agree. Unfortunately, our own legislature has been a major contributor to both. This has to stop. The legislature can’t be helpful and vindictive at the same time.
Of course, there is also the cost. It is extremely expensive to go to college. One article quoted that only 45.9% of high school graduates are pursuing higher education. Regardless of the reason, we need to treat our teachers better, pay them more, and find ways to encourage younger people to go into the profession. I sincerely hope this legislative session begins that process.