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West Virginia Legislature yet to consider RESA bill

By JOSELYN KING

The Intelligencer and Wheeling News and Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Bills to eliminate West Virginia’s eight regional education service agencies have yet to be addressed in Charleston as West Virginia Legislature nears the halfway point of its 60-day session.

Language to abolish the RESAs is included in both House Bill 2711 and Senate Bill 420 — omnibus education bills introduced in each chamber on behalf of Gov. Jim Justice.

The bills also include provisions pertaining to teacher raises and removing a mandate that the school calendar provide for 180 separate instructional days.

Both bills continue to sit in their respective education committees.

“Nothing is moving yet,” said Nick Zervos, executive director of RESA 6, which serves much of the Northern Panhandle. “I believe you’ll see things taking shape next week as to what direction these bills are going to go, and who’s supporting what. I know they’re getting feedback. This isn’t the only region that’s been active over the past several weeks.”

The measures would abolish and defund the RESAs on July 1. After that date, all property, equipment and records held by the agencies would be transferred to the state board of education or to other appropriate entities as provided by law.

The bills also encourage local school districts to enter into agreements to take on services previously provided by the RESAs to reduce administrative and/or operational costs. These agreements would pertain to such areas as purchasing, employment of teachers to assist special needs children, professional development, technology and billing for school-based Medicaid services in schools throughout the state.

Ohio County Schools Superintendent Kim Miller informed board of education members this week she is already taking action to contact the superintendents of other schools districts served by RESA 6. She wants to arrange a meeting so they can coordinate efforts in the event they lose the services provided by RESA 6.

RESA 6 services Brooke, Hancock, Marshall, Ohio and Wetzel county schools districts.

“I’ve sent out an email and I’m working on it,” Miller said. “We have to discuss collaboration. If something were to happen, we have to come up with a plan where we can make use of one another.”

Zervos said he supports the effort.

In the interim, he anticipates additional bills pertaining to RESA or amendments to the omnibus education bill will be introduced in the coming days. There’s also a possible scenario in which the RESAs would remain intact, but that their funding would be abolished.

“We’ll just have to wait and see if there is any contingency,” he said. “At this point in time, there are a lot of people in Charleston (who) don’t know who’s on first base. There’s so many bills out there.”

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