Bill to eliminate RESAs pulled from committee agenda

By Jeff Jenkins in News
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that would eliminate all eight of the Regional Educational Service Agencies in West Virginia and adjust the school calendar appears dead in the state Senate.

The bill (HB 2711) was removed from the Senate Education Committee agenda Wednesday morning after Republican committee members called a quick caucus during the meeting when a proposed amendment was challenged.

Committee Vice-Chairman Senator Robert Karnes (R-Upshur) wanted to amend the bill to put the legislature in charge of education standards instead of the state Board of Education. Department of Education General Counsel Heather Hutchens questioned the constitutionality of the proposal. She also said state school board members have nine-year terms for a reason.

“The point of that is so that there is stability and consistency in that there isn’t specifically change that may be dictated by the policies of elections,” she said.

The bill may dead for this session, according to West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee.

“The bad part of that is there are some good things in the bill,” Lee said.

The bill is a roughly $6 million piece in the state budget puzzle. It passed the House 76-24.

Doing away with the RESAs was a part of Gov. Jim Justice’s original budget proposal, also part of what he describes as an attempt to limit bureaucracy in the state’s education system.

It also would eliminate the state Office of Performance Audits. And it changes the circumstances under which the state board can intervene in a local school system.

The bill also establishes a County Superintendents Advisory Council, setting up four geographic quadrants to carry out the work of the council. The bill allows RESAs to remain until July 1, 2018 but the state will end at the conclusion of this fiscal year.

The bill also limits statewide student assessments in English/Language Arts and math to grades 3-8 and once in high school. Science assessments would be limited to once in grades 3-5, once in grades 6-9 and once in grades 10-12. The bill requires the state Board of Education to establish a college entrance test that will taken by all 11th grades along with a career readiness test. The bill also deals with performance measures for schools.

The bill’s school calendar section would allow counties that have longer school days to use instructional minutes for up to 5 days of their 180 instructional requirement.