Latest News, WVPA Sharing

WV House reverses point of school consolidation protection bill


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Sen. Greg Boso, R-Nicholas and Senate Bill 621’s lead sponsor, on Thursday afternoon tried to change a proposed amendment to separate legislation (HB 2561) to preserve language that was in SB 621.

This came after the House of Delegates on Wednesday night removed — or reversed — the point of a bill (SB 621) that originally would’ve prevented state Board of Education policy changes from affecting school consolidation processes that have already begun.

Boso’s attempt originally passed 20-14, but after Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, then challenged the entire amendment, which included a property tax increase, Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, ruled that the change to the amendment was “not germane” to HB 2561, and Boso withdrew it.

SB 621 said that “after a county board of education provides written notice to the state board that it has taken official action to begin the process of closing or consolidating a school or schools,” any changes to rules regarding school construction, consolidation or closing “shall not be applicable to the school closing or consolidation project described in the county board’s notification.”

In a 53-46 vote with Delegate Frank Deem, R-Wood, the only delegate not voting, the House approved an amendment that erased the word “not” that’s between “shall” and “be” in that aforementioned sentence.

House Education Committee Chairman Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, and the top GOP leaders of the Republican-controlled House voted against the amendment.

On Thursday, SB 621 passed 66-32, with Delegates Michael Folk, R-Berkeley, and John Williams, D-Monongalia, not voting.

Delegate Dana Lynch, a Webster County Democrat whose district includes the Nicholas County city of Richwood, proposed the amendment.

In arguing for the amendment, Lynch and other delegates brought up the situation in Richwood, which was wrecked by the June 2016 flood. The Nicholas County school board now plans to consolidate Richwood’s middle and high schools, which closed following the flood, into a consolidated campus near Summersville, rather than rebuilding them near Richwood.

The bill attracted criticism because it could protect that consolidation plan. The state school board has not yet approved the plan, as it is required to do.

Boso’s engineering consulting firm, G.L. Boso & Associates Inc., has received $126,400 from the Nicholas school board for past projects, according to Nicholas school system administrators. Boso said that amount was paid over about eight to 10 years.

Boso said his firm is also part of two design teams that are vying to work on the board’s proposed consolidated campus, and he’s also performing current work for the Nicholas school system.

But he said the bill wasn’t about personal financial gain, but “to assure the integrity of process that’s laid out within the [state] Constitution, the laws of the state of West Virginia, and the rules that are promulgated as provided for in the state code.”

Boso’s proposed change Thursday afternoon to a proposed amendment to HB 2561 would’ve added language saying “Changes to a comprehensive education facility plan shall be based on the applicable rules and policies of the State Board of Education in effect at the time changes to the comprehensive education facility plan are considered by the local board of education.”

“This just simply makes a quick change … it just adds a simple clause that simply says,” Boso said on the Senate floor before reading his proposed alteration.

“The purpose of this is just simply to say that once the counties regardless of who they are and what the process is, whatever is defined at that time, that’s the process that applies,” Boso said.

“Senator, you described your amendment pretty quickly there,” said Sen. Ronald Miller, D-Greenbrier. “Is this not 621?”

Boso said yes. Miller said he received a “tremendous number of emails on 621,” mostly from Boso’s district, that kept “raising questions.” Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, also said he’d been getting a lot of emails from Boso’s district.

See more from the Charleston Gazette-Mail


Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address