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Paying Math Teachers More

Would you want a lawn mower specialist repairing your car’s transmission? Probably not. You’d go to someone trained and experienced in automotive mechanics. You’d be willing to pay a few dollars more to get that expertise.

So why don’t state officials in West Virginia have the same attitude about teaching our children mathematics?

Much has been said about the shortage of teachers in public schools. In a substantial number of classrooms, the problem is not having a man or woman in charge of the students. It is that education administrators cannot find teachers trained to teach certain subjects.

Mathematics classes are a particular worry. Especially when it comes to advanced math such as trigonometry and calculus, West Virginia does not have enough certified teachers.

Gov. Jim Justice is suggesting a way to address the problem. SB 327, a bill containing his plan, was introduced last week in the state Senate.

If enacted, SB 327 would provide one-time payments of $2,000 to teachers who enroll in advanced mathematics courses designed by the state Department of Education. The idea is to provide a financial incentive for more teachers to learn how they can teach high-level math classes more effectively.

We need them. As state school Superintendent Steve Paine points out, “We have right now approximately 25 percent of our Algebra I classrooms that are taught by non-Algebra I certified teachers.” Similar shortages can be found in other math courses.

It already has been suggested that Justice’s approach may not be expansive enough. An increase in pay, not just a one-time stipend, may be required to get more teachers in certain specialties, such as math, science and special education.

Leaders of the state’s two teachers’ unions have fought such suggestions for years. Their opposition may appeal to some of their members — but it is short-sighted. West Virginia needs to do more to attract and keep qualified teachers in certain subjects. Justice’s idea may be a good start.


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