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Senate Education Committee advances bill allowing student athletes to participate in non-school athletics, three other bills

West Virginia Press Association Staff Report

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Senate Education Committee, on Thursday, considered a plan that would allow students who are currently a member of a school athletic team to simultaneously participate in non-school athletics.

Introduced by Sen. Amy Grady, R-Mason, and explained by Committee Counsel, SB 813, “Prohibits county boards of education and the West Virginia SSAC (Secondary School Activities Commission) from prohibiting or restricting a student from competing in non-school events, or participating on non-school competitive teams as a condition of playing for a sports team or sport.”

Following explanation of the bill, Sen. Michael Azinger, R-Wood, asked, “What exactly is it that we’re trying to fix here? What’s being allowed here that’s not allowed now?”

According to Counsel, students who play for a school athletic team are disqualified from participation in a non-school competitive sports program. 

“For example, if a student plays volleyball for [their] school, they’re not allowed to play for certain clubs […] that do out-of-state tournaments and stuff,” Counsel added, noting that these types of clubs “oftentimes bring in recruiters and colleges.”

Speaking in favor of the bill, Sen. Mike Oliverio, R-Monongalia, said, “I think it just gives some flexibility.”

“The middle school that I attended didn’t have cheerleaders for their basketball team this year,” Oliverio said. “A number of the girls who attended that school wanted to participate in a competitive cheerleading team. Because they couldn’t have this little bit of overlap, the team ended up not having a cheer squad.”

Next before the committee was the committee substitute for SB 842, the second of four Grady-introduced bills on Thursday’s agenda.

As again explained by Counsel, “The bill increases the number of training hours” for those elected to a county board.

“A person elected to a county board after May 1, 2024 may not assume the duties unless they have first attended and completed an orientation training,” Counsel said. “State code already requires training related to boardsmanship and government’s effectiveness, and the bill adds additional training in fiscal management.”

According to Counsel, annual training requirements for board members would increase from seven to 12 hours. The bill would not apply to board members sworn in before July 1, 2024. The bill would also add the chairs of both the House and Senate Education Committees to the Education Standards County Board Review Committee as non-voting board members.

In response to a question from Sen. Vince Deeds, R-Greenbrier, W.Va. School Board Association Director Jim Brown, said, “It’s been a common practice for years that county boards can submit a request for training that they do outside the association to credit toward the required hours.”

 According to Brown, that practice would remain in place should the bill become law.

The third bill before the committee, relating to professional teaching certificates, was explained by Committee Counsel Hank Hager.

“In order to be awarded a professional teaching certificate under the traditional route to certification, a person must have passed appropriate state board approved basic skills and subject matter tests in the area for which licensure is sought,” Hager said. “This bill limits applicability for that requirement to only those persons who have not completed a bachelor’s degree program for the education of teachers, and those who are not enrolled in or have completed a bachelor’s degree program for the education of teachers, or who have obtained less than a 3.0 GPA.”

And the final bill on the agenda, SB 861, was again explained by Hager, who said, “This bill adds to the number of full-time-equivalent teachers employed by the county, who are less than fully certified,”

 “The teaching position in which they are employed is a factor to be used in allocating funding,” Hager added.

All four bills were adopted by the committee, and will now be forwarded to the full Senate for further consideration. 

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