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Justice presents Senate with bill to revamp West Virginia’s education system

By RUSTY MARKS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has asked members of the state Senate to run a bill that would completely overhaul the state’s education system and return more control to local school boards.

State Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, agreed to introduce the bill on Justice’s behalf.

“West Virginia’s students and teachers are being crushed by a boulder of bureaucracy in Charleston,” Justice said in a press release Thursday, Feb. 23. “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,” Justice said. “We’ve proven how to be 50th; it’s time to restructure and rebuild our school system from the bottom up.”

The bill would eliminate the state’s eight Regional Education Service Agencies and allow county school boards to collaborate on many of the services RESAs currently provide.

According to Justice spokesman Grant Herring, the bill also would:

  • Establish a County Superintendents’ Advisory Council.
  • Encourage county boards of education to share services formerly provided by RESAs.
  • Make 180-calendar-day policy more flexible for local communities.
  • Create flexibility for instructional days, including reserved time for teachers to collaborate and plan lessons for their students.
  • Require state board to review/develop and approve a college and career readiness assessment to be administered in 11th grade and make it count toward statewide student assessment in English language arts, math and science in said grade or as required by federal law and regulations.
  • Amend school accreditation, accountability and school performance to include multiple measures.
  • End the A to F grading of public schools by amending school accreditation, accountability and school performance to include multiple measures.

The bill also would raise the pay for classroom teachers by a little more than $800, for an average raise of 2 percent.

Carmichael and Prezioso agreed to introduce the bill, but did not write it. Carmichael said Thursday afternoon he had not yet had a chance to read the entire 60-page bill, but was encouraged by what he had heard about it.

“In general, we support his concept,” Carmichael said. He said the bill went along with Republican intentions to return control of schools to local authorities.

 “The current system is not working,” Carmichael said. “I think (the bill is) a step in the right direction.”

With the state facing a potential budget deficit of more than $450 million, Carmichael was less sure of Justice’s intention to give teachers a raise. Although he agreed West Virginia’s teachers don’t make enough money, Carmichael said he wasn’t sure it was fair to give teachers a raise while leaving other state employees out.

He said such details can be worked out as the bill works its way through committee and to the Senate floor.

The bill has been referred to the Senate committee on education.

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