CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — State Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, has been named chairman of the West Virginia House of Delegates Education Committee, and he is pulling out of the state 16th Senate race to seek re-election to the House from the 66th district.
Speaker of the House Tim Armstead announced Espinosa’s appointment Monday.
“In speaking with Speaker Armstead, he made it clear that whoever was appointed to the position, they would have to make a commitment to the role for the foreseeable future,” Espinosa said Monday in a telephone interview. “He wants to avoid having three education chairs in three consecutive years. I think I could have been effective as a senator, but I concluded after careful consideration that I can best serve my constituents by taking this position and forwarding an education reform agenda.”
Delegate Amanda Pasden, R-Monongalia, announced Dec. 23 that she would resign Jan. 1 “to focus on a personal matter.” She had served as chair of the House Education Committee during the 2015 legislative session.
Delegate Walter Duke, R-Berkeley, is the vice chair of the House Education Committee, but he has announced that he will not seek re-election.
Espinosa is a member of the Education Committee.
He told The Journal in June that he was seriously considering running for the Senate seat after state Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, who currently represents the 16th district, announced he would not seek re-election, and run for Jefferson County clerk.
Espinosa officially pre-filed to run for the 16th Senate seat in July. He said Snyder’s decision did not affect his decision. He had been considering running for the state Senate since first being elected to the House in 2012, Espinosa said at that time.
Bob Adams and Joe Funkhouser, both Republicans, have pre-filed to run for the House 66th district.
“I reached out to Bob and Joe to let them know about my decision,” Espinosa said. “They appreciate my decision. They understand that the opportunity to serve as chairman of a major committee would be advantageous, beneficial to the Eastern Panhandle.”
Espinosa would have faced Patricia Rucker in the Republican primary for the 16th Senate district. Rucker is only candidate who has pre-filed to run for the seat. Espinosa wants to see if anyone else files to run for the Senate seat before endorsing a candidate, he said. Espinosa would support the GOP nominee, he said. The filing period to run is Jan. 11-30.
“I feel strongly that it would be best to have a member of the majority party in that seat,” he said. “I anticipate the Senate to remain in Republican hands and the Republicans will retain a majority, and even pick up some seats.”
As chairman of the House Education Committee, Espinosa said he would be an advocate for empowering local school districts, parents and teachers.
“We’ve learned that one size doesn’t fill all,” he said. “I want to provide additional authority to school districts to make decisions locally.”
Espinosa said it is important to look carefully at school choice for parents.
“Parents are best able to make decisions for their children,” he said. “Charleston should not presume to make the best choices. We need to support flexibility if a school is not meeting the needs of students.”
Giving local school districts the option to institute public charter schools would be one of those local decisions, Espinosa said.
“It would not be a mandate,” he said. “Some school systems are not interested in public charter schools. In talking with Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon and then-Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Susan Wall, they did not express great interest in public charter schools. But the evidence shows that a commitment to public charter schools can have a positive effect, especially for special needs children.”
Espinosa said that he expects the Legislature will move forward with a public charter school bill during the upcoming session.
The legislative session begins Jan. 13.
– Staff writer John McVey can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 128, or twitter.com/jmcveyJN.