(04/16/2010)
State Board of Education members are discussing major changes to West Virginia schools, including moving away from a teacher seniority system to a teacher performance system.

The state is trying to compete for up to $75 million in federal education funding from the "Race to the Top" program.

State board members must decide whether to allow charter schools, evaluate teachers each year, remove struggling or ineffective principals from some schools, create other ways for teachers and principals to get certified and offer new pay structures for teachers and principals.

The state's teacher unions oppose charter schools.

Gov. Joe Manchin has challenged the state school board to take "bold action" and lead on issues that would help West Virginia compete for "Race to the Top" money.

Manchin is likely to call a special legislative session on education after the May 11 primary election.

Board members are also debating about bowing out of "Race to the Top" money.

Michael Green, a board member from Monongalia County, questioned whether board members should just proceed with the state's Global 21 initiative, which calls for more hands-on learning and an understanding of technology, critical thinking and communication skills.

Wade Linger, a board member from Marion County, believes there's a tightrope to walk between drafting a plan that works best for West Virginia without overreacting to the whims of the federal government.

Charter schools receive public money, but operate with limited school board supervision. Parents, teachers, principals and others in a community usually operate the charters.

Charter school principals could have the right to remove a teacher when students are not making progress in the classroom.

West Virginia is one of 10 states without charter schools.


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