The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

April 2, 2013

Lawmakers pressing ahead on education

CHARLESTON — Legislators aren’t done trying to improve West Virginia’s public schools this session following the passage of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s wide-ranging proposal.

The House Education Committee has crafted and advanced several follow-up measures within the past week. The Senate, meanwhile, has passed bills proposing free breakfast and lunch for all K-12 students and requiring administrators to spend three days each year as substitute teachers.

The school meals bill would seek grants and donations for funding, as compared to more costly — and unsuccessful — House legislation that focused on overall student health and nutrition, said House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, whose committee will review both Senate measures. The other item should help curb substitute teacher costs while spurring policy improvements, the Barbour County Democrat said Monday.

“It gets those individuals who are isolated in central offices out into the schools to find out where the real problems might exist,” said Poling, a retired educator. “What I like about it is it’s getting those individuals back in the classrooms where education actually takes place.”

Two of the proposals drafted by Poling’s committee passed Monday to the Senate by nearly unanimous margins. One aims to reduce administrative cost and overhead in the state’s eight Regional Education Service Agencies. It allows county school board members and superintendents within each RESA to meet every other year and develop more ways to share services.

Monday’s other bill would exempt Monroe and Nicholas counties from state law requiring school attendance. Each is launching programs targeting students at risk of dropping out, Poling said. Monroe would increase the age at which students and quit school from 17 to 18. Nicholas would allow students to erase up to two unexcused absences each semester if they attend school on Saturday.

Both counties are taking part in the innovation zone program, which permits limited flexibility from state school policies. A recent audit of West Virginia’s education system, which prompted both Tomblin’s legislation and the overall reform push, found it was uniquely hobbled by rigid rules and a top-heavy bureaucracy when compared to other states.

That audit inspired another House Education-drafted measure, sent unanimously to the Senate on Thursday. This bill tackles seven areas where the wide-ranging study recommended improvements. Those include stepped-up career and technical training, a more thorough effort to link coursework to state workforce needs, and greater power-shifting to county districts and schools. The bills also embraces the audit’s call for closer tracking of student performance — testing shows West Virginia school children lagging behind most of their peers — and would require the state board of education to announce how it will return control in those counties where it took over schools five or more years ago.

A House-Senate oversight committee would regularly press the state board and its department for signs of progress in these seven areas, Poling said of the bill. She credited the special panel formed by House Speaker Rick Thompson, which held public hearings as part of its work, for much of that bill’s provisions.

“Many of them are not new issues, but the audit helped bring them to the forefront,” Poling said.

An additional House Education bill, up for a Wednesday vote, aims to improve educator development at the local level and free up more state dollars so schools can buy better digital-age learning tools.

“There’s so much more demand for technology that’s not being met,” Poling said. “It will sort of force the districts to direct more funding toward modern-day delivery of education and instruction.”

As amended by lawmakers, Tomblin’s education bill requires Department of Education personnel spending cuts in each of the next two budget years. It also offers county school systems more flexibility when it comes to setting annual school calendars and hiring and transferring teachers. Other provisions offer to help teachers with student loans and renew their national certification. The bill also aids Tomblin’s goals of ensuring that all third-graders end that year reading at grade level and that all high school students are ready for college or career training by the time they’re seniors.

Text Only
West Virginia
  • W.Va. AG court filings: Dismiss gun law question

    The attorney general says a court challenge should be dismissed over whether West Virginians can bring guns to city recreational facilities that hold school events.
    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s filings Thursday argue the city of Charleston shouldn’t receive court guidance on how to implement a state gun law.

    April 18, 2014

  • Energy-state Dems split from Obama

    Scrapping to keep a West Virginia Senate seat Democratic in a state that’s sprinted to the right, Natalie Tennant is counting on her allegiance to the coal industry to separate herself from an unpopular President Barack Obama.
    Her approach reflects common Democratic strategy and tactics this midterm election year in energy-producing states that lean Republican: Sen. Mary Landrieu is vying for a fourth term representing Louisiana; Alaska Sen. Mark Begich is running for re-election for the first time; and Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes wants to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    April 17, 2014

  • Official: $2M in chemical spill costs reimbursable

    Public agencies and nonprofits that helped after a Jan. 9 chemical leak into the water supply could receive $2 million in reimbursements for their emergency work, a West Virginia homeland security official said.
    Federal and state emergency officials briefed fire departments, paramedics and other government groups Wednesday on how to recoup costs.

    April 17, 2014

  • Manchin urges mines to speak out for coal

    The Democratic senator leading the battle against the White House’s strategy to fight climate change urged the mining industry on Tuesday to speak out about coal’s role in providing affordable, reliable electricity to the country to help combat strict new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.

    April 16, 2014

  • Many schools already meet new mandate for breakfast

    Many West Virginia public schools have changed the way they serve breakfast to students ahead of a requirement that goes into effect in September.

    April 14, 2014

  • W.Va. grower promotes unmodified feed corn

    Lyle Tabb is hoping that his non-genetically modified corn will take off with farmers who can charge top dollar for “all natural” eggs.
    Genetically modified or GMO corn has greatly simplified the process of getting rid of weeds, but has also substantially increased the amount of a chemical call glyphosate.

    April 13, 2014

  • Geologists link small quakes to fracking

    Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.
    A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link “probable.”

    April 12, 2014

  • Phares looks forward to retirement

    James Phares looked forward to the challenge and opportunity to help make a difference in a state education system under fire when he was hired in late 2012 as West Virginia’s schools superintendent.
    After 18 months, Phares will be stepping down on June 30 — which he said was set long ago as the day at age 61 that he’d walk with his wife into retirement.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teacher planning, abortion ban among W.Va. vetoes

    Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed about 200 bills and nixed eight this year, leaving teachers and abortion opponents unsatisfied.

    April 7, 2014

  • Spill company president ‘bears no fault’

    The president of Freedom Industries “bears no fault” for a West Virginia chemical spill that spurred a water-use ban for up to 10 days for 300,000 people, his lawyer says in a court filing.
    On Friday, Freedom President Gary Southern withdrew his application to get paid for work he already did during the company’s bankruptcy proceedings. He also wanted Freedom and its insurance to cover his legal fees related to the Jan. 9 spill.

    April 5, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads