By ANDREA LANNOM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — At the behest of Gov. Jim Justice, a bill abolishing Regional Education Services Agencies and restructuring the state Department of Education was introduced in the state Senate Thursday.
Justice said his plan’s goal is to reduce control from Charleston.
Senate Bill 420 was introduced by Senate President Mitch Carmichael and Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, and was referred to the committees on Education and Finance.
The bill abolishes RESAS and funding on or after July 1 and restructures the Department of Education by changing the way shared services are provided to local schools to eliminate the need for the agencies. The bill also encourages county boards of education to share services formerly provided by the agencies.
The bill also eliminates the Office of Education Performance Audits and ends the A-F grading of public schools by amending school accreditation, accountability and school performance to include multiple measures. It limits school system intervention by the state Board of Education to extraordinary or dire circumstances.
The bill creates the County Superintendent’s Advisory Council, whose purpose is to promote collaboration among county districts and provide input to the state Board of Education and the state superintendent on issues facing the system.
County superintendents will meet by Sept. 1 to divide the state into four quadrants to identify cooperation in areas of service to reduce administrative or operational costs including consolidation of administration and other county level functions into shared focus, the bill said.
The council also will provide an annual report to the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education and Accountability and the governor.
Under the bill, the state Board of Education will review and develop a college and career readiness assessment to administer to 11th graders.
The bill also calls for a raise for classroom teachers by $808.
The goal of the bill, Justice said in the release, is to give local control to county school systems.
“West Virginia’s students and teachers are being crushed by a boulder of bureaucracy in Charleston,” Justice said in the news release. “Our local school districts and parents have lost control of what’s going on in the classroom. My plan will transform our public schools into a world-class education system that gives all of our students a shot at success and allows our teachers the freedom to teach.”
“Charleston thinks it knows what’s best for our kids and after meeting with educators and parents around the state it’s as clear as day that the bureaucrats have no clue about what’s really going on. We’ve proven how to be 50th; it’s time to restructure and rebuild our school system from the bottom up.”
Carmichael said he supports the governor’s vision of transferring power to local entities.
“I support the move toward less bureaucratic centralized control of the state’s education system,” Carmichael said. “This allows local entities to develop services that work best for the area. They will have a more flexibility than currently exists.”
Carmichael said this has been a goal for many years and said he sees support in the Senate for the governor’s proposals.
“I think many areas he’s promoting, we will support. Some areas, we will disagree only because we have been working on issues for some time and there may be better ways to implement the policies outlined. We are supportive of his direction.”
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