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W.Va. Legislature Moves To Strip Board Of Education Authority; Officials Speak Out

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West Virginia leaders in K-12 education are speaking out against a resolution approved by the West Virginia Legislature. The resolution, if approved by voters this fall, would allow the legislature to take rule-making authority from the West Virginia Board of Education.

West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch and Board of Education President Miller Hall issued a joint statement at Wednesday’s board meeting speaking in opposition to House Joint Resolution 102.

The resolution was approved by both the House and the Senate and will now be placed before voters in the upcoming November general election. That vote will determine whether the board of education will continue to make education decisions or if those decisions will fall to the legislature.

“The board of education has maintained steady and consistent leadership of the public school system during these incredibly uncertain times,” Hall said. “We are now moving into a post-pandemic model where we must address the extenuating circumstances and lingering effects of COVID-19 on learning and development. It will be crucial that we support our students with the continuity of balance the board requires and provides.”

“We often talk about the need to pivot to meet the escalating and changing needs of our education community,” Burch said. “The board has the flexibility to move nimbly and efficiently to support our children, educators and staff in the face of change. For example, we have met with minimal notice to issue waivers. The Board has also traveled and held meetings around the state to be accessible to communities and to hear citizens’ concerns.”

The joint statement said the board is non-partisan and made up of members with diverse educational backgrounds who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, also issued a statement in response. He called the board of education an “unelected fourth branch of government” that does not want to be held accountable.

“The legislature has 134 elected members, which makes all of them directly accountable to the people they serve,” Blair said. “Through the legislative rulemaking processes, the legislature reviews and implements hundreds of rules from nearly all state agencies each year. The state board of education should not be exempt from that process.”

This marks the second time that the West Virginia Legislature has attempted to change the state board’s role in setting policy, according to a news release from the department of education.

Webmaster/Eastern Panhandle Bureau Chief/Part-time Education Reporter/Producer, emccormick@wvpublic.org, 304-876-9313, @LizMcCormickWV

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