WVSBA The Legislature

March 12, 2010 - Volume 30 / Issue 17



Day of Session 59th
Days Remaining 1
Bills Introduced:
(Including 2009 House Carryover Bills)
Active Bills (Senate, House) 360

"If you think that everything is fine and it should stay the way it is, I think we have a problem as a state. We’ve got to all be on the same page. We're going to do a special session if you want. We're not going to do a special session if you don't want it. It’s a team effort if we're going to go through a special session. In the special session, we set the agenda. I can't move it without you.” – Governor Joe Manchin in remarks to the state Board of Education Wednesday





“Journalism is literature in a hurry.” – Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), British poet and cultural critic.

By Jim Wallace

A bill that started out increasing West Virginia’s compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 17 picked up many other provisions along its way through the legislative process. It came out of the Senate Finance Committee Thursday with everything except the higher attendance age.

“It could be gutted by removing the 17-year provision.” – House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling

That’s something House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour, said she was afraid might happen. “It could be gutted by removing the 17-year provision,” she said. “That was the whole purpose in doing the bill.”

Until it hit the Senate Finance Committee, House Bill 4593 was received well all along the way. The House of Delegates approved it on a 96-4 vote. When it arrived in the Senate Education Committee last week, one member called it “an excellent piece of legislation.” Another praised it for being “comprehensive.” A few senators had questions, but the bill easily got the committee’s approval with just a minor amendment.


Bill aims to increase graduation rate.

The main purpose of the bill is to improve the high school graduation rate and deter students from dropping out of school. The House Education Committee determined that increasing the compulsory school attendance age would have little effect unless schools provided more resources “dedicated to supporting student achievement, providing real-life relevancy in curriculum, and engaging students in learning, particularly for those students who have become so disengaged from school and learning that they are at risk of dropping out of school.”

Consequently, the delegates included in the bill such provisions as:

The bill also would have the state superintendent pursue getting West Virginia designated as a GED Option state by the American Council on Education. Such a designation would allow the state board to create a program in which students could pursue GED diplomas while remaining enrolled in high school. The GED Option also would be offered to students at the Mountaineer Challenge Academy.


Senators make a big change.

In the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, praised most of the provisions in the bill, but moved an amendment to keep the compulsory attendance age at 16.

“I think the way this bill is structured actually has some good points by building in some incentives on getting students to stay beyond the age of 16, but I don’t think it will help graduation rates one bit.” – Sen. Roman Prezioso

“I don’t think this bill is going to help one bit as far as raising the age from 16 to 17,” he said. “I think the way this bill is structured actually has some good points by building in some incentives on getting students to stay beyond the age of 16, but I don’t think it will help graduation rates one bit. As a matter of fact, from what I understand, it could actually hurt county boards of education as far as their average yearly progress on graduation rates.”

We could take another look at the age in a couple of years.

Sen. Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel, supported the amendment and said he was concerned that requiring students to stay in school one more year could cause some school districts to lose money.

Support also came from Sen. Jesse Guills, R-Greenbrier, who said, “We should pass this bill without the age change, allow this system to kick itself into effect, and if it’s seen after several years that there does need to be a change, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with coming back and enacting a change at that time.”

But Sen. Randy White, D-Webster, opposed removing the provision for a higher compulsory attendance age. As the head of a subcommittee that studied the dropout problem, he said, he learned about studies showing that raising the age by a year results in the graduation of 25 percent more students that otherwise might have dropped out. Added benefits are that those students tend to become more productive citizens, less likely to go on welfare or be incarcerated. 

“It does have a very proactive effect on these kids,” he said.

“Once these programs are in place, we can change the age from 16 to 17.” – WVEA President Dale Lee

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, told the committee he thought the alternative education programs are more important that the higher compulsory attendance age. “I think what’s important is that we get these programs in place,” he said. “I also like the amendment, which gives us an opportunity to get these programs in place…and once these programs are in place, we can change the age from 16 to 17.”

But Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, opposed the amendment to keep the mandatory attendance age at 16. He said he would prefer just to delay raising the age for a year or two to give the alternative education programs a chance to be established. Prezioso argued that nothing would preclude lawmakers from establishing the higher age in a year or two.

The Finance Committee was about evenly divided on the issue, but Prezioso’s side prevailed on a voice vote. If the full Senate passes House Bill 4593 without the provision to increase the compulsory attendance age, the fate of the bill likely would rest in the hands of a House-Senate conference committee.


Suicide prevention bill runs into unanswered questions.

Another education bill that ran into trouble in the Senate Finance Committee after getting through the Senate Education Committee was House Bill 2542. Labeled the “Jason Flatt Act of 2010” after a student in Tennessee who committed suicide, it would provide suicide prevention training for teachers and administrators.

“Why do we need this?” Sen. Karen Facemyer, R-Jackson, asked when the bill came up on Wednesday. “Why is it something they are not already doing?”

“I’m not disagreeing that it’s needed, but I’m wondering why we need legislation to do it. I mean if somebody has a runny nose, we don’t pass legislation telling them to blow their nose.” – Sen. Karen Facemyer

Senate Finance Chairman Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, didn’t answer her questions but mentioned that the bill had been discussed in the House for about a year.

“I’m not disagreeing that it’s needed, but I’m wondering why we need legislation to do it,” Facemyer said.  “I mean if somebody has a runny nose, we don’t pass legislation telling them to blow their nose.”

Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, wanted someone from the Department of Education or the Center for Professional Development to explain the need for the bill. He was upset when no one stepped forward, because he had the same type of questions as Facemyer.

“Are we micromanaging?” Unger asked. “Why can’t they do this through their own rules or policy? I don’t get it.”

Because no one was available to answer the questions, the committee agreed with Unger’s request to hold the bill over for a day. But when the Senate Finance Committee met on Thursday, House Bill 2542 was not on the agenda.


Other bills move along.

However, the committee did approve another bill affecting public schools. House Bill 4324 would allow retired teachers to continue working as substitute teachers in areas of critical need and shortage without loss of monthly retirement benefits through June 2013. Without the bill, authority to do that would expire this June.

“County boards of education are finding it difficult to get substitute teachers,” Helmick said. “They need to move this thing forward.”

One bill that got through the Senate Education Committee this week but has yet to get through the full Senate is House Bill 4223. Its purpose is to increase the safety of school children who use school buses by increasing criminal penalties for failure to stop a vehicle before reaching a school bus with flashing warning lights and by providing additional circumstances increasing the periods of ineligibility for parole for people for certain felony convictions for the distribution of controlled substances in the proximity of students waiting, boarding or exiting a school bus.

Bills that got through the full Senate this week included:

House Bill 4672, which would provide for school calendar committees in each county, finally moved forward on Thursday after being held up on second reading in the Senate for several days.

“The reason for the delay in the Senate was to work it out with the House before we actually passed it so there was agreement already,” Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, said. “We just needed an agreement on an amendment that would allow those counties that are served by just one vocational school – a vocational school that has multiple counties – that they would be all on the same page when it comes to actually doing calendar recommendations.”

House had a lighter load on education.

In the House Education Committee this week, higher education issues took up much of the delegates’ attention, but the committee did approve versions of two bills affecting county school districts.

One was Senate Bill 547, which is designed to correct an inconsistency between two sections of state code dealing with levy estimates. The law generally states that school board sessions during which levy estimates are made should adjourn and then reconvene on the third Tuesday in April. The Senate put language in stating that “in those years when a levy is placed on the ballot for consideration during a primary election, the session shall stand adjourned until the last day of May that is not a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, at which time it shall reconvene.”

The House Education Committee had a version with different language to accomplish the same goal. The committee substituted its language for the Senate language and then approved Senate Bill 547 in that form. The full House subsequently approved the bill and sent it back to the Senate to consider the House changes.

The other bill the House Education Committee approved was Senate Bill 648, which would repeal outdated and obsolete sections of state code dealing with education. The committee amended the bill to remove sections addressing higher education but left in sections to get rid of old language regarding the Teachers Retirement Board and a scholarship program that no longer exists. This bill also received approval from the full House and was sent back to the Senate to consider the House changes.

In a brief meeting on Thursday, the House Education Committee also approved three resolutions calling for studies during interim legislative meetings in coming months on:


By Jim Wallace

Reaction around the Capitol was mixed after Gov. Manchin made a rare appearance before the state school board on Wednesday to encourage the board to be more aggressive pushing for change.

Manchin told board members he wants their support before he calls a special session this spring for education reforms that could help West Virginia get federal Race to the Top funding. The state did not get chosen for the first round of funding, but Manchin hopes West Virginia can improve its application in time to file it for the second round of funding in June.

One change the governor is expected to seek is a law to permit charter schools in West Virginia. He already has the support of the leading advocate of charter schools in the Senate.

“We need to realize that our models of what we’re using today are not leading us down the path that we need to go.” – Sen. Erik Wells

“I’m 100 percent behind what the governor’s trying to do,” Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, said. “We need to realize that our models of what we’re using today are not leading us down the path that we need to go.”

Wells, who is vice-chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said West Virginia’s education system has too much bureaucracy.

“There are folks who are going to be resistant to change,” he said. “We have to focus our arguments that change is for the better and simply convince enough people that we cannot succeed by doing what we had been doing in the past.”

But House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour, was more wary about Manchin’s appearance before the state board.

“I hope there were some real suggestions there that would improve education and not just another complaint, because I’ve not heard him say anything specific that he would propose,” she said. “If he’s talking about Race to the Top, we don’t know why we were rejected.”

West Virginia and other states not selected for the first round of Race to the Top funding are to find out in April how their applications were scored. Until then, Poling said, it’s premature to criticize the state board members.

“I think they provide good leadership,” she said. “Maybe sometimes they go in too many directions with their leadership. That’s one of the things the House committee looked at – giving some choice back to the faculties and schools on what learning strategies and so forth they would use.”

Judy Hale, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, said she thinks the state board members do a good job.

“I think they have a lot of progressive programs.” – Judy Hale of AFT-WV

“I think they have a lot of progressive programs,” she said. “I think they had a good grant proposal for Race to the Top.”

Hale also said the governor should have waited for the Race to the Top application scores before criticizing the board.

Bob Brown, executive director of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, said Thursday that Manchin’s criticism of the state school board “cuts both ways. I talked with several board members this morning. Some were applauding him; some were angry. So clearly, you have a divided state board.”

The governor seems to be “trying to build support for a special session on education,” Brown said. “It’s going to be very interesting.”

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said Manchin’s criticism of the state school board disappointed him. He said it was unfair for the governor to do that after getting much of his education agenda through the Legislature last year and this year. That included bills on Innovation Zones, third- and eighth-grade testing policy and removing the state-mandated beginning and ending dates for the school calendar.

“We are moving education forward in West Virginia,” Lee said. “The Innovation Zones [law] has a great opportunity to provide substantial change for the kids of West Virginia. The 19 grants that were awarded will have effects on 14,135 students in West Virginia – teacher-initiated change for the better. Let’s give those an opportunity to work. Let’s fund that and then replicate that across the state, because I believe these things can be adjusted to fit every county unlike his move toward charter schools, for example. Charter schools, where they have effect, it’s been predominantly in urban areas. You can’t translate that across West Virginia. Innovation Zones you can translate.

By Jim Wallace

The 2010 session of the West Virginia Legislature has been a slow one for education in the eyes of some of the people who have been working on bills affecting public schools.

“We didn’t run as many bills, but I think they were of greater magnitude in a lot of cases.” – Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale

“We didn’t run as many bills, but I think they were of greater magnitude in a lot of cases,” Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, said.

Similarly, House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour, said, “I think we’ve passed some bills that are important.” She was worried about a bill to increase the graduation rate, because of an attempt in the Senate to remove a provision that would raise the compulsory attendance age to 17. But Poling was pleased with other legislation that would give more flexibility to local school systems.

Lawmakers are expecting Gov. Manchin to call them into a special session this spring to deal with education issues, such as a bill to permit charter schools, in the hope of getting federal Race to the Top grant money. Senate Education Vice-Chairman Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, expressed disappointment he couldn’t get a charter schools bill through during the regular session.

“Obviously, we failed on the aspect of the charter schools, but I think it has also opened up tremendously the dialogue that is needed, and we are seeing how we are not in a winning position because of our lack of charter schools,” Wells said. “I think the governor with the special session will really focus on that. We need to start taking some bold action to improve education in West Virginia.”

Plymale said he was glad lawmakers put together a good bill to address the dropout problem during the current session, but he added, “I don’t think we’ve done things to address student achievement. I think one of the things we have lined up for us, too, is to look at comprehensive middle schools like we have comprehensive high schools.”

Howard O’Cull, executive director of the West Virginia School Board Association, said much of the session was dominated by another issue that has yet to be resolved: OPEB – other post-employment benefits. Lawmakers are expected to do something about West Virginia’s estimated $7.5 billion OPEB liability in a special session, but 50 county school boards have already sued the state over the issue.

“That issue, rightly or wrongly, had county board members’ attention, proving to be a systemic focus,” O’Cull said. “Of course, the thought of a special session loomed largely, making most session issues have a temper of being less important than the ‘promised’ reforms coming in May or June.”

“By this time in the session, we typically have eight or 10 bills floating around or eight or 10 issues in one bill, but it’s been relatively slow.” – Bob Brown of WVSSPA

Bob Brown, executive director of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, said the regular session has been slow for education.

“By this time in the session, we typically have eight or 10 bills floating around or eight or 10 issues in one bill, but it’s been relatively slow,” He said there has been only one big bill dealing with service personnel, House Bill 4512.

Likewise, Judy Hale, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, said it has been a slow session for education.

“We’ve been mostly just been trying to hang on to the job rules and employment rights that we have,” she said. “I don’t think there’s been much progress. In my opinion, the governor’s waiting for the special session on education before he really tackles some of these bills. There’s been a lot of discussion about OPEB, the unfunded liabilities and more discussion on school calendar and on our work rules and of course charter schools.”

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said he is pleased that some bills coming out of the current session would give teachers more opportunity for input into the education process.

“I’m a strong proponent of teachers making decisions on what’s best for moving their students forward,” he said.  “Certainly, it hasn’t been as much as I want. It never will be, but we have moved education forward.”

House Joint Resolution 101, the governor’s proposed constitutional amendment that would exempt prospective commercial and industrial tangible personal property from taxation, has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee after having been “rereferred” to the Committee March 10.

The measure had been reported from Senate Judiciary “without recommendation” – a somewhat rare legislative move.

While the Senate Finance Committee’s March 12 agenda has yet to be posted, the Resolution is expected to be considered today.

While critics say the amendment would result in loss of local tax dollars, the governor’s office says any reductions in revenue would be offset by increased economic development – and that the measure is prospective.

The state Association of Counties opposes the amendment, as proposed.

Other organizations, including the state Manufactures Association, question its impact and intent. Moreover, some business-related entities suggest the amendment should be effective immediately – not prospectively.

As introduced the measure would have allowed the Legislature to exempt the properties from taxation. It was amended in the House of Delegates so that county governments have this ability.

The Resolution has received a mixed sentiment from county board members.

Here is the Resolution language:

§1d. Discretionary exemption from ad valorem taxation of tangible personal property directly used in commercial and industrial businesses.

Notwithstanding any other provision of this constitution, the Legislature may by law authorize counties to exempt, by ordinance, tangible personal property directly used in commercial and industrial businesses, but not in public utility businesses, from ad valorem property tax. The Legislature may prescribe and limit by law the tangible personal property qualified for such exemption, and counties may exempt all property so designated by the Legislature, or such components thereof as the county commission may designate. Any exemption established pursuant to this section is limited to qualified tangible personal property newly entered on the property tax rolls as of a prospective date certain and thereafter. Notwithstanding section one, article ten of this constitution, taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the county for any county adopting any exemption pursuant to this section.

Resolved further, That in accordance with the provisions of article eleven, chapter three of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, such proposed amendment is hereby numbered "Amendment No. 1" and designated as the "Commercial and Industrial Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption Amendment" and the purpose of the proposed amendment is summarized as follows: "The purpose of this amendment is to allow counties to exempt from ad valorem taxation tangible personal property newly entered on the property tax rolls as of a prospective date certain and thereafter and directly used in commercial and industrial businesses, but not in public utility businesses, or such components thereof as the county commission may designate, pursuant to legislative authorization.  


By Jim Wallace

Kentucky and West Virginia have much in common, including repeated attempts to get charter schools laws passed. But unlike West Virginia, Kentucky is a finalist in the first round of competition for federal Race to the Top funds.

Some people in West Virginia have suggested that the state’s Race to the Top
application was hindered because of the lack of a charter schools law, but Kentucky’s selection as a finalist shows the situation is not that simple.

Until the U.S. Department of Education releases more information in April, it won’t be known why some states made the cut and others didn’t. But David Baird, associate executive director of the Kentucky School Boards Association, said his state has a provision that might have helped it get selected despite not having charter schools.

“We believe that part of the discussion and part of our rationale is the fact that every school is governed by a site-based council. It’s what we call decision-making at the local level.” – David Baird of Kentucky School Boards Association

“We believe that part of the discussion and part of our rationale is the fact that every school is governed by a site-based council,” he said. “It’s what we call decision-making at the local level.”

Each site-based council includes three teachers, two parents and the principal of a school. The local school board provides funding for the school, but the site-based council makes such decisions as which teachers to hire and which classrooms should be assigned to them. The council even chooses the principal.

Baird said Kentucky established the site-based councils almost 20 years ago as a result of a major education reform movement. He knows of no other state with such councils that operate independent of school boards.

“We call it a balance,” Baird said. “We have quite a bit of history and quite a bit of success.”


Charter school bills still come up.

Having the councils, he believes, has helped ward off charter school legislation in Kentucky, even though at least one charter school bill tends to be introduced each year. This year, charter school supporters introduced a pair of bills – one in the Senate and one in the House – that would permit such schools to be established anywhere in Kentucky with few restrictions. Because those bills seem to be going nowhere and most education groups have raised objections to them, Baird said, the sponsors are working on an alternative bill that would limit the number of charter schools established in one year to 20, but it also is expected to have a tough time getting passed.

President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan want to use the Race to the Top funds to reward innovation in education, which is why some states got points for permitting charters schools, he said, but Kentucky’s system already is positioned well to encourage innovation without charter schools.

“We just believe that what we have is working and it’s adequate.” – David Baird

“We just believe that what we have is working and it’s adequate,” Baird said.

In addition, he said, it’s not unusual in Kentucky for students to cross district lines to attend school. The state has 120 county school districts and 54 independent school districts and most of them have negotiated contracts with neighboring districts to allow students to go to school in the district of their choice, Baird said.


New commissioner made a difference.

Much credit for the success of Kentucky’s Race to the Top application should go to the state’s new education commissioner, who has been on the job only about six months, Baird said. The commissioner, Terry Holliday, pulled together a coalition of representatives of interest groups that held regular meetings as the application was being prepared, he said.

“We are very pleased with his leadership,” Baird said.

In the Race to the Top process, Kentucky received extra points because all 174 school districts signed on in support of the application, he said. “I think that was pretty much unheard or in other states,” Baird said.

Another factor he believes helped Kentucky’s application was that lawmakers passed a bill in the first week of their session this year to allow the state Education Department to take over low-performing school systems, which is similar to what happens in West Virginia. In Kentucky, the state did have that power and exercised it in the early 1990s, Baird said, but statute changes in recent years had made it unclear whether that was still possible until the new legislation was passed. “The new commissioner was eloquent in getting it passed,” he said.

In regard to charter schools, the education commissioner has taken the position that the only way he could support charter schools would be if those schools had to get their authority from local school boards. Baird said the Kentucky School Boards Association doesn’t support charter schools legislation, but it does approve of the commissioner’s position. 

Although Kentucky is a finalist for first-round Race to the Top funding, the state won’t find out until early April whether it will be that funding. If it doesn’t, Baird said, “the issue on the charter schools will become a hot topic in the final two weeks of the [legislative] session,” which is expected to end in mid-April.

That also would put Kentucky in competition with West Virginia and other states for the second round of Race to the Top funding. The applications will be due in June. The winners will be announced in September.


Parents, teachers and others interested in improving student English and math skills can now view the first official public draft of kindergarten-through-12th-grade standards developed as part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in West Virginia and other states. The draft standards, released to the public on Wednesday, were developed together with teachers, school administrators and experts to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare America’s children for college and the work force.

West Virginia, along with other states and U.S. territories, joined with the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in developing common English/language arts and math standards.

“Participating in this national initiative will reinforce that we are doing the right thing for students in West Virginia by helping them excel both in their core classes and in real-world settings so that they will be globally intelligent and resilient in today’s digital world." – Supt. Steve Paine

“West Virginia has taken bold steps to increase rigor and incorporate 21st century skills into the curriculum,” West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine, who is president-elect of CCSSO, said. “Participating in this national initiative will reinforce that we are doing the right thing for students in West Virginia by helping them excel both in their core classes and in real-world settings so that they will be globally intelligent and resilient in today’s digital world."

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) has commended the groups for their combined efforts to draft the standards.

“The work of these organizations to build and engage a broad coalition to support this work is a laudable achievement in its own right,” the NASBE said in a news release. “NASBE is pleased to be a member of the advisory board that has assisted in this effort as the work progressed.”

The draft standards are open for public comment for the next several weeks, so the NASBE considers it critical to keep in mind that this is a state-led initiative focused on a national imperative to ensure that every student in every district is taught to a clear set of standards that will prepare him or her for a successful future. Although there may be concerns in some quarters about the shift from state-by-state standards to common standards, NASBE’s leadership is confident that the authors of the standards listened to the many representatives from education and the policy fields as they strived to address the issues of all those concerned.

Those interested in the standards are encouraged to review them and complete a survey by Friday, April 2, 2010, at www.corestandards.org. Click on “Submit Feedback” for access to the survey.

“I hope people will be thoughtful and use this comment period to strengthen these common standards rather simply look for a reason not to support this important initiative.” – NASBE Executive Director Brenda Welburn

“This is just the beginning of a process, not the end,” NASBE Executive Director Brenda Welburn said. “I hope people will be thoughtful and use this comment period to strengthen these common standards rather simply look for a reason not to support this important initiative. We need to work as a nation to ensure all students receive a high-quality education that prepares them for a greater future. The common core standards is a vital component to that work.”

NASBE also has recognized that the needs of English language learners and special needs students are explicitly addressed in these standards as yet another sign that the perspectives of a broad range of groups were considered.

The K-12 common core standards in English/language arts and math are research- and evidence-based, internationally benchmarked, aligned with college and work expectations and include rigorous content and skills. States can voluntarily adopt the standards, or add additional standards. The initiative builds on the work West Virginia already has done in developing its 21st century learning program, “Global21: Students deserve It. The world demands it.”

Since work started to create standards in these subject areas, the discussion alone has spurred the consideration of common standards in science, the arts and social studies among the disciplinary groups, as policymakers and educators have come to realize that the basic educational needs of students do not differ from one state to the next.

NASBE’s final regional meetings on the standards will be in St. Louis March 29-30. Podcasts from NASBE’s southern, western and northeastern area meeting are available at: http://www.nasbe.org/index.php/podcasts/909-podcast-general?utm_source=NASBE+Headline+Review&utm_campaign=9ae828921d-NASBE_Common_Core_Standards_Release3_9_2010&utm_medium=email.

Editor’s Note: Refer to state Board of Education President Priscilla Haden’s comments regarding ‘Common Core’ standards as published in the Jan. 22 issue of The Legislature: http://www.wvsba.org/publications/The_Legislature/newsletter/01-22-2010.html#commentary1

Sources: West Virginia Department of Education and National Association of State Boards of Education


Editor’s Note: -- Jim Wallace is a former government reporter for the Charleston Daily Mail and former news director of West Virginia Public Radio. He now works for TSG Consulting in Charleston and writes for several national and West Virginia publications.




Administrative Perspective

By Martha Dean, Ed.D.

The final week of the regular legislative session began early for the House Education Committee which met at 9:00 a.m. Monday.

Most of the Senate bills had to do with higher education and were passed by the House committee without a lot of discussion until they came to Senate Bill 480. This is a huge bill that addresses many personnel issues in higher education. It seemed as if every member of the committee had at least one question and the discussion went on for about 45 minutes to an hour. 

The committee finally decided to return after the floor session to continue consideration.

The bill did pass out with amendments and currently is on Special Calendar third reading today with the restricted right to amend.

Senate Education considered five bills Tuesday.

The Senate Education Committee met, as is its usual practice, at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday. The committee considered five bills:

The bill is on second reading today.

In the Senate Education Committee, the bill was amended to reinsert the penalty to school boards. The bill passed the Senate on Wednesday and the Senate has requested the House to concur with its bill. 

Actually, if the House refuses to concur, the law will go back as it was with the penalty to school boards in it.

Action on public education bills occurs mostly in Senate.

The action affecting public education now seems to be located mostly in the Senate. 

Thursday saw the Senate Education Committee having its final scheduled meeting for the year. It honored two of the staffers who are retiring this year with proclamations and a reception. 

It was rumored that the governor held up the meeting of the committee because he was in Senate Education Committee Chairman Bob Plymale’s office, although no one knew exactly what the issue was. 

The committee took up House Bill 4145, a measure to require certain provisions to make higher education campuses more veteran friendly and passed the bill.

House Bill 4031 is the bill dealing with Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) funding. The House Finance Committee had reduced the maximum annual RESA funding from $4.2 million to $3.9 million. Senate Education restored the funding to $4.2 million and agreed with the provision to have RESA funding cut the same percentage as the state Department of Education when budget shortfalls necessitate funding cuts.

Oliverio, Guills are honored.

The committee meeting ended with both Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, and Jesse Guills, R-Greenbrier, being recognized for their years of service to the committee. Neither is running for re-election to the Senate.

Senate Finance takes up education bills.

The Senate Finance Committee had several bills on the agenda, but the Senate Education Committee has been watching House Bill 4593 carefully. The bill left Senate Education with the age at which you can quit school being raised from 16 to 17. 

Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, offered an amendment to return the age at which you can drop out of school to 16. The other provisions of the bill including both that would have schools providing services and alternate programs aimed at keeping students in school and raising the alternative education funding level from $12 per pupil to $18 per pupil. There was a lot of discussion with most senators speaking in favor of the amendment. 

Sen. Plymale entered the meeting late and he strongly opposed the amendment because he thought the age at which a student could drop out should be raised to 17. The voice vote was taken and Chairman Helmick declared the “ayes” have it and the amendment passed.  Division was requested but it was ruled that the chair had ruled before the request for division. The bill was then, on motion by Senator Plymale, moved to the foot of the bills. It took quite a while to get through the rest of the bills, but when House Bill4593 was again considered, it passed.

Next two days are important.

These next two days we will be watching the conclusion of action on the remaining education bills.  This is certainly not a typical year as there are fewer than 20 bills still being considered for final votes.

Martha Dean is executive director of the West Virginia Association of School Administrators.



WVSBA Direct

The West Virginia School Board Association is conducting superintendent searches for the Pocahontas and Lincoln County Boards of Education.

The association recently completed the Wood County Schools superintendent search.

Information regarding the Pocahontas position has been forwarded to county schools superintendents, Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) executive directors, county board presidents and others today, according to WVSBA Executive Director Howard O’Cull.

The Lincoln County position will be posted Monday, March 15, according to O’Cull who worked with that board earlier this week. .

 “Through our BoardWorks initiative, we serve counties in various ways. We serve them in ways that are customized and designed to meet individual county board needs,” he said.

According to O’Cull, the State Superintendent of Schools, as required by statute, will have final say in regard to the county superintendent selected for Lincoln County, although the county board will be able to suggest names and rank “the finalists” they think best for the position.

For more information on either position, please contact O’Cull.




The Institute of International Education has announced that the application is now available for the 2010 Toyota International Teacher Program to the Galapagos Islands, a fully-funded professional development program for U.S. educators. Funded by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., and administered by the Institute of International Education, the program aims to advance environmental stewardship and global connectedness in U.S. schools and communities.

The program will take place November 20 – December 4, 2010. The deadline to apply is May 26, 2010. Full-time classroom teachers and librarians of all subjects for grades six through 12 are eligible to apply.  Visit the Web site at www.toyota4education.com for application instructions and FAQs, and to apply online. 

 “International opportunities such as these completely expand our worldviews and shift our priorities,” one participant said. “My approach to teaching has changed – I have become more passionate about making my students global citizens with knowledge of and sensitivity to international issues.” 

If you have any questions or would like more information, contact the Toyota International Teacher Program Team by e-mail at toyotateach@iie.org or by toll-free phone at 877-832-2457.



The West Virginia State Bar and the West Virginia Department of Education have partnered to offer students the chance to win as much as $1,000 for creating a three-minute video on “Righting a Wrong” to be placed on YouTube. The second-place finisher will win $500, while third place will receive $250.

The contest, which is open to West Virginia public school students in grades nine through 12, gives participants the chance to create a video about a wrong that they would right, an injustice they would correct, or something that they would remedy within the judicial system. The creator of the winning video also will receive basic accommodations at The Greenbrier for the awards presentation during the West Virginia State Bar’s annual meeting in May.

"The idea of the video contest is to reach as many West Virginia students as possible to help them understand the importance of the justice system," State Bar President Sandra Chapman said. “It is important in a democratic society to encourage students to express their ideas and interest in the law and the role it plays. I am confident we will get some creative entries.”

Videos will be judged based on originality, creativity, adherence to the theme and overall quality. Entries must include a parental permission form for those under age of 18. Submissions will be accepted from Jan. 25 to April 1. Students interested in entering the contest can download an application and other forms as well as rules at http://wvde.state.wv.us/wvstatebar.

For more information, contact Timothy Haught at the West Virginia State Bar at 304- 455-0172, or thaught@wvdsl.net.






West Virginia should be the first, not the last state to fix public schools

West Virginians have tended to think of their policy battles only in terms of their own borders. Warring factions have counted it as a win when one beat back the other.

This blinded some to the fact that winning the war means being aware of what the state’s competitors are doing.

Most recent case in point? Charter schools.

For two years now, there’s been a legislative fight over whether, in an effort to help those children the system is failing, West Virginia should permit and fund schools that break the highly regulated mold for public education.

Some West Virginians are for a damn-the-torpedoes approach. Others have a vested economic interest in the controls provided by current state law.

Last year, with teachers unions opposed to charter schools, the state passed a more limited “innovation zones” bill. It led to the state’s entry in a competition for $4.53 billion in federal funds.

State officials spent about 4,500 hours between August and January to prepare a 113-page application. Forty states and the District of Columbia sought funds.

Meanwhile, people who want charter schools in West Virginia tried again in the Legislature, but came up against the same opposition as before.

And on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education announced that 58 peer reviewers had chosen 15 states and the District of Columbia as finalists for the first round of funding. Grants will be announced next month.

West Virginia, which applied for $80 million, was not on the list of winners. If the essence of the competition is innovative boldness, tightly controlled innovation might not be the best strategy. (To be fair, neighboring Kentucky doesn’t have a charter schools law on its books either, and it did make the list of finalists.)

Competition is good. It forces people to examine whether they’re doing things as well as their competitors are.

Partly because it’s a small state and the policy-makers all know each other, West Virginians can design break-the-mold policies as well as anybody. Here’s hoping everybody throws self-interest to the wind and does that.

If West Virginia’s children don’t succeed, ultimately, the state’s educators won’t either.

This editorial was published originally in the Charleston Daily Mail and is used here by permission.


Legislative Record

“The less people know about how sausage and laws are made, the better they'll sleep at night” – Attributed to Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), Prussian prime minister.

check1st  Day - January 13, 2010: First day of session. (WV Const. Art. VI, §18)

check20th  Day - February 1, 2010: Submission of Legislative Rule-Making Review bills due. (WV Code §29A-3-12)

check41st  Day - February 22, 2010: Last day to introduce bills in the Senate and the House. (Senate Rule 14), (House Rule 91a) Does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills. Does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions.

check47th  Day - February 28, 2010: Bills due out of committees in house of origin to ensure three full days for readings.

check50th  Day - March 3, 2010: Last day to consider bill on third reading in house of origin. Does not include budget or supplementary appropriation bills. (Joint Rule 5b)

60th Day - March 13, 2010: Adjournment at Midnight. (WV Const. Art. VI, §22)
Source: West Virginia Legislatur


"Remember, Lady Godiva put all she had on a horse and she lost her shirt!" - W. C. Fields (William Claude Dukenfield (January 29, 1880 – December 25, 1946), known as W. C. Fields, was an American comedian, actor, juggler and writer.)

Active bills and resolutions reviewed

The following is a listing of Senate and House education and education-related bills having “active status,” meaning each measure has been adopted by their house of origin and referred to the other chamber for consideration.

Also included is a comprehensive listing of Resolutions which the Legislature has the ability to consider prior to adjournment Saturday. 


County Boards

Public School Calendar

Public School Employees


Public School Finance

Public School Students

Public School Transportation

Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs)

School Building Authority of West Virginia (SBA)/School Construction/Facilities

West Virginia Board of Education

West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC)/Higher Education-related

West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA)

Teachers Retirement System (TRS)

Workers’ Compensation



Child Welfare




Governmental Entities






School Building Authority of West Virginia (SBA)/School Construction/Facilities

West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC)/Higher Education Related

West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA)

Teachers Retirement System (TRS)


Child Welfare







Legislation that would allow Georgia governors to remove problem school board members has passed the House. Senate Bill 84, which Governor Sonny Perdue proposed, also contains new ethics requirements for school board members. The bill must go back to the Senate for final approval. The bill allows the governor to remove school board members in systems in danger of losing accreditation. Before the governor can remove anyone, though, the state school board would have to hold a hearing and recommend the removal. (Macon Telegraph, 03/09/10)


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose…” – Janis Joplin (1943-1970), American singer, songwriter and music arranger, from the lyrics of “Me and Bobby McGee,” which was written by Kris Kristofferson.

“A minimum of sound to a maximum of sense.” – Quotation attributed to Mark Twain describing the term “sound bites.”


"I've had to say 'no' a lot. They come wanting new programs...no we can't start anything new. We're in debt." – Senate Finance Chairman Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, discussing requests for new programmatic funding this legislative session.

“I think the way this bill is structured actually has some good points by building in some incentives on getting students to stay beyond the age of 16, but I don’t think it will help graduation rates one bit.” – Sen. Roman Prezioso on bill to curb dropout rate

“I’m not disagreeing that it’s needed, but I’m wondering why we need legislation to do it. I mean if somebody has a runny nose, we don’t pass legislation telling them to blow their nose.” – Sen. Karen Facemyer on bill to provide suicide prevention training to educators

“We need to realize that our models of what we’re using today are not leading us down the path that we need to go.” – Sen. Erik Wells on charter schools legislation

“We didn’t run as many bills, but I think they were of greater magnitude in a lot of cases.” – Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale

“By this time in the session, we typically have eight or 10 bills floating around or eight or 10 issues in one bill, but it’s been relatively slow.” – Bob Brown of WVSSPA

“Every school is governed by a site-based council. It’s what we call decision-making at the local level.” – David Baird of Kentucky School Boards Association


Last Word

“The wide world is all about you; you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot fence it out.” – J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973), British writer and author of the richly inventive epic fantasy, The Lord of the Rings.

By Howard M. O’Cull, Ed.D. 

“I hesitate to use metaphors after the bad luck I've had in recent days, but I grew up on a farm and I might say, therefore, that my visit to the Oval Office for lunch with the president was more in the nature of a visit to the woodshed after supper.” – David Stockman, President Ronald Regan’s budget director - Nov. 12, 1981.


Was it a drubbing or ‘latitude of sanity?’

I have taken quite a drubbing over my comments regarding Senate Bill 608.

Rather than use the word ‘drubbing,’ perhaps we should center more on latitude of sanity. In fact one close lobbying associate asked, “Have you lost your mind?” It goes downhill from there.

At this point, let me explain that Senate Bill 608 is a measure calling for sharing of county board central office administrative services except that of county superintendent. (West Virginia Code 18A-1-1 defines “‘Central office administrator’ as  a superintendent, associate superintendent, assistant superintendent and other professional educators who are charged with administering and supervising the whole or some assigned part of the total program of the countywide school system. This category includes other appropriate titles or positions with duties that fit within this definition.”)

The process worked like this: As positions in central offices become vacant or need to be filled, boards would be required to explore whether or not these services could be arranged through a Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) or another county board. If that were the case – the operative bill word is ‘feasible’ as the state Board of Education would define the term – then the county board would have to illustrate “why” this approach was not being utilized.

If the state superintendent of  schools, again based on a state Board of Education policy designed to implement the proposed statutory provisions and to define ‘feasible,’  determined the county’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious,” he or she could compel the local board to commence the process until the position were filled.


Senate Bill 608 meets ‘quick demise.’

The measure met a quick demise. Indeed, county board officials, including superintendents and county board members, faulted the proposal based on at least these premises:  Our board is doing this to some degree, thank you; there might be some merit here, but the process is entirely too cumbersome; this won’t work in our county; why is this needed, especially a literal OK from the state superintendent; and, of course, ‘have you lost your mind?’


It’s not ‘mea culpa.’

In terms of full disclosure, what follows is not a mea culpa.

Earlier in the 2010 regular session, Joe Panetta, the state Department of Education’s director of the Office of School Finance, told House Education Committee members the state is likely to “lose” $100 million from its Public School Support Program (PSSP) within the next few years. No less than Mike McKown, director of the governor’s budget office, stressed the same at the West Virginia School Board Association’s Winter Conference. 


Institutional memory plays a role.

While both a blessing and curse, here’s where my institutional memory enters the equation: Let’s explore Senate Bill 608 within the context of West Virginia’s recent history in terms of public education personnel law.

As the educational system began to contract due to loss of students in the late 1970s – early 1980s, the Legislature adopted a series of school personnel laws initially designed to protect long-term employees through statutorily-codified reliance on seniority.


Retrenchment was the influencer for school personnel laws.

There are those who say school personnel laws had their genesis with egregious administrative practices in some West Virginia counties. Using this commonly-accepted thesis, retrenchment is overlooked as the primary influencer for adoption of the spate of school personnel laws in the early 1980s-mid 1990s.

Unmistakably, mid-1970s service personnel statutes did emanate from sore and vexing practices related to how these employees were treated, providing the context for codifying job classifications. This move, in 1976, ushered in two-and-one-half decades of educational personnel lawmaking. At the same time, however, the Legislature found itself compelled to deal with Public School Support Program (PSSP)-induced downsizing, accomplishing such by codifying seniority in terms of Reductions In Force (RIFs). This move, for all practical purposes, made seniority the linchpin of personnel statutes – with retrenchment as the initiatory factor.


Unions were ‘Riding the coattails of retrenchment.’

During this time, professional educator and service personnel organizations learned gains could be made by riding the overarching retrenchment coattails, namely securing bushels of benefits enshrined in Chapter 18A of the Code - Outside the School Environment (OSE) days, duty-free lunch, duty-free planning periods, leave days without cause, and other state-decreed work rules. Again, the genesis and dominating factor was retrenchment borne within the context of declining student enrollments. 



(Even in the mid-1980s when the Legislature officially settled on “qualifications” as the primary factor for teacher employment the concept remains enwrapped within the seniority syllabus, i.e., the two “sets of factors” for employment. [The House Education Committee approved the ‘qualifications’ approach with then Delegate Sandy Rogers, R-Wood, casting the decisive one-vote margin.] Moreover, when then state Superintendent of Schools Henry R. Marockie, Ed.D., promoted “qualifications,” as statute allowed, county superintendents routinely made personnel recommendations based on – you guessed it – seniority. This proved an easier trek than facing potential litigation or grievances.)


Law sets a ratio for professional instructional personnel and administrators.

The long and short of things is that the Legislature enacted a 1990 law, still on the books, which literally “set” the number of school administrators a county could have for PSSP funding  purposes. (There must be five administrators.) There were two overarching reasons: continued retrenchment accompanied by a change in the PSSP which made it harder to realize  “ weighted” student counts, especially from special education cohorts as broadly-defined, and a desire to ensure a stratified concentration of School Aid Formula professional educators who must be deployed as Professional Instructional Personnel (PI).

It took about two decades, but recent PSSP structural changes, especially those relative to allowing county boards to “keep” larger amounts of their “local” share of tax revenues,  have increased the number of some central office administrative positions and, admittedly, most of these positions have or do fall into categories relating to provision of curricular or instructional services – directors, coordinators, specialists, etc.

That is not the point, however.


The ‘efficiencies’ argument comes in.

If the system contracts more due to loss of revenue, will the Legislature examine the school administration issue within the context of efficiencies? Our friends with the state Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, have made public comments regarding the number of school districts in the state, questioning if school districts – the whole ball of wax, including five-member county boards and central office administrations – should (not could) be combined.

I have to believe their comments are not just idle thinking. Given recent events and their very effective lobbying, I don’t see AFT officials twiddling their thumbs literally dreaming-up the next policy issue to push down the court.

Indeed, within the halls of the Legislature there are whispers of whether or not we “need” 55 county school boards, although few, if any, legislators have made this their rallying cry as some legislators did a generation ago, including the late Sen. Buffy Warner, R-Monongalia.   

That, too, is not the point: The matter relates to how best to organize the school system in an efficient manner without compromising services students receive –  akin to John Nesbitt’s circa 1982 “Megatrends” – “high tech/high touch.”


‘Viable option’ emerges.

Here’s where sharing of services becomes a viable option more so than consolidating school districts.

Even with the drubbing I have taken, I contend boards, in most instances, could, should and would be better off investigating ways to share administrative personnel. Feasible is the optional word. This approach likely would free moneys for student services, provide enhanced services to some smaller districts, and provide greater cross-county cooperation, which could be translated into cross-county schools.


Entrepreneurial RESAs might work.

Most of all, however, this approach might goad RESAs – read their executive leadership – to become more entrepreneurial. Thus, to paraphrase state Board of Education member Wade Linger (Marion), RESAs would be freed from coming to expect greater amounts of state funding and would find themselves seeking ways in which to promote sharing of services between and among counties.

Of course there are two problems – county board and superintendent reluctance to share administrative services and the “feasibility” matter.

By viewing the issue through the lens of the 1990 actions, county boards can take concrete steps to ensure a stay ahead of the game stance.

Some persons, however, will argue this approach amounts to yielding to premature mindset or  set of circumstances that may never occur – an over-read. After all, Senate Bill 608 could not clear one committee and recent PSSP changes have actually benefitted county boards – as well as what appears to be a 2010 nouveau legislative mindset to avoid centralizing policy. (This development, of course, is fluid, depending on the issue.)

Those points are valid, although Sun Tzu’s The Art of War suggests the importance of  strategic positioning and that position is affected both by objective conditions in the physical environment and the subjective opinions of competitive actors in that environment, requiring quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. In terms of application, doesn’t this mean ‘staying ahead of the game,’ based on a wide array of the best information, including historical context?


Again, this is no mea culpa, but emerging from the woodshed.

As I said, this is not mea culpa.

As I emerge from the woodshed, I turn from Sun Tzu, deferring to that great country music singer/”philosopher” Aaron Tippen:

You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything
You've got to be your own man not a puppet on a string
Never compromise what's right and uphold your family name
You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything

Tippen’s advice cuts both ways in terms of sharing central office administrative services.

Howard O’Cull is executive director of the West Virginia School Board Association.


In the February 26 issue of The Legislature, in a story about a proposed beer tax to provide funding for substance abuse treatment programs, Jake Stolze was identified incorrectly. The story should have said Stolze is director of Prestera’s Laurelwood East Program.



COUNTY SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT. The Pocahontas County, WV, Board of Education is accepting applications for County Schools Superintendent. Must meet WV qualifications for county superintendent. Salary/benefits negotiable. 2 elementary schools; 1 elementary/middle school; 1 middle school; 1 comprehensive high school; stabilizing student enrollments; 110 professional  personnel; 90 school service personnel; $13 million budget; WV School Of Excellence for Vocational Program; Title I Distinguished designation. For “Notice of Position Vacancy,” Application Form and related materials, contact: Pocahontas County Schools Superintendent Search, c/o WV School Board Association, PO Box 1008, Charleston, WV 25324, or visit www.wvsba.org (preferred). Application deadline: 4:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 31, 2010. For additional information regarding Pocahontas County Schools/Marlinton, WV, visit: http://boe.poca.k12.wv.us/  www.NaturesMountainPlayground.com  or PocahontasCountyWV.com  or http://www.pccocwv.com/



Bowles Rice Ranked # 1





The Legislature is published by the West Virginia School Board Association. It provides county board of education members, state policymakers, school administrators and the education community information and opinions regarding West Virginia legislative issues. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect official opinion or policies of the WVSBA, unless specifically stated.

West Virginia School Board Association
PO Box 1008
Charleston, WV 25324
Phone (304) 346-0571 • Fax (304) 346-0572 WVSBA.ORG

Rick Olcott (Wood), President

Howard M. O’Cull, Ed. D., Executive Director, Editor
Shirley M. Davidson, Administrative Assistant,
Production and Circulation

Vincit omnia veritas
“Truth conquers all”