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WV Senate president: ‘We’re going to run’ governor’s K-12 bill


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The chairman of the West Virginia Senate Education Committee abruptly pulled Gov. Jim Justice’s wide-ranging K-12 education bill from his committee’s meeting agenda on Wednesday and said the bill is “dead.”

But after the action and comments by Chairman Kenny Mann, R-Monroe, Wednesday morning, Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said the bill (HB2711) would be back on a Senate Education committee agenda Thursday morning.

Time is running short: this year’s regular legislative session ends Saturday at midnight.

“We’re not letting that bill die,” Carmichael said.

He said that since the morning committee meeting, GOP Senate leadership had tried to persuade the committee members to work together.

He said there was a lack of time during the committee meeting and there were concerns about amendments related to the Regional Education Service Agencies and the Common Core standards, “so we’re working those differences out prior to the committee meeting.”

“Rather than fight about it in committee, you know, work it out,” Carmichael said. “It’s not like a back-room deal or anything, but we’re just trying to understand everybody’s concerns.”

Among other things, the bill would eliminate the eight Regional Education Services Agencies, the state Office of Education Performance Audits and the mandate that public school year calendars have at least 180 separate instructional days.

“We’re going to run that bill and we need to do something with the RESAs and the 180 days, some flexibility in that calendar,” Carmichael said.

The Regional Education Service Agencies are multi-county agencies that are supposed to aid public schools. The auditing office, under the state Board of Education, assesses schools’ principal leadership, teaching of statewide education standards and ability to keep students safe, among other factors.

On Wednesday morning, Senate Education members were considering a change proposed by committee Vice Chairman Robert Karnes, R-Upshur, to an amendment to the Justice bill.

The initial amendment would’ve added, among other things, a line saying that the state school board is “prohibited from implementing the Common Core academic standards.” The state’s current public school math and English language arts education standards are largely the same as the Common Core national standards blueprint.

It also would’ve added a line saying that the state school board can’t adopt tests from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Those are the two federally funded groups that built tests specifically aligned to the Common Core standards.

West Virginia currently uses Smarter Balanced as its statewide standardized tests, though the state school board has indicated it plans to move away from those tests after this spring.

The amendment also said, “The state board shall not adopt any national or regional testing program or academic curriculum standards tied to federal funding without oversight by the legislative oversight commission on education accountability.” Karnes’ change would’ve replaced the words starting at “without” with this: “except as authorized by an act of the Legislature.”

The Legislature and the state school board have butted heads over which has authority over which facets of education. In recent years, the power struggle has centered on the board’s adoption of Common Core standards and Smarter Balanced.

The language in the first amendment and the change that Karnes proposed to it resembled another bill (SB 18), which Mann voted against when it passed the Senate floor and which the House hasn’t taken up.

Mann was absent for much of Wednesday’s meeting, as Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, argued with Karnes about his amendment.

“Common Core was adopted with very little public input, very little oversight by anybody,” Karnes said when Romano questioned his proposal. “We can see what a disaster Common Core has been for our state, and so I think it’s appropriate that the Legislature sign off on any adoption, particularly when it’s tied to federal funding.”

Karnes said that when the federal government tries to get the state to adopt a standard, “I think it’s incumbent upon us as the sovereign body of the state of West Virginia to sound off on that effort.”

“That’s been going on for 50 years, and until your party became the majority, that was never an issue,” Romano said.
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