School Consolidation Task Force – Bill Introduced

House Bill 4020 - Relating to the creation of a School Consolidation Task Force.

The Task Force is to study effects of school closures in the last 30 years.

Bill provisions also would place a moratorium on school closure and consolidation for five years, unless a special referendum in county passed by voters.

The measure contains this statement of legislative intent:

Legislative intent

“The Legislature hereby determines that the provision of public education is of paramount importance to the State of West Virginia. In the past thirty years, West Virginia has closed many small, locally-based schools as a part of district level consolidation. Although all of these schools were consolidated through careful deliberation by the counties involved, it is apparent that the full effects of these closures are not able to be determined for many years after the consolidation has occurred. As such, the Legislature deems it appropriate to study the effects that the closure of these schools has had on student achievement, parental engagement, extracurricular engagement, community economies and cost.”

Five-Member Task Force to be appointed by governor

The Task Force would include five members appointed by the governor – The governor and state superintendent of schools would serve as Task Force ex officio members.

The remaining three members of the Task Force, again appointed by the governor by and with consent of the state Senate, would include a representative of the state School Building Authority, a member of the House of Delegates and a member of the Senate.

The bill stipulates that of the five members, “at least three members shall have at least one child who is enrolled, or has attended, public schools in West Virginia.”

The governor would chair the Task Force.

Terms, Successors, Meetings, Compensation

Subsequent bill provisions cover terms of Task Force members, selection of successors to original members, vacancies, removal provisions, meetings-related details, compensation, etc.

The bill stipulates that the Task Force is to accomplish its objectives and that it has “…jurisdiction and authority over all persons and property necessary to carry out its duties.”

Powers and duties

The Task Force, as established in the statute, has the following powers and duties:

  •  To investigate and study the effects of school consolidation in West Virginia;
  •  To ensure the study encompasses effect of school closures on student achievement, parental engagement, extracurricular engagement, community economic development, and financial costs;
  •  To designate any such districts or communities that are to be investigated and studied, and to determine the order and the periods of time within which the investigations and studies are to be conducted;
  •  To commission such studies as are necessary to fulfill the objectives of this section.

The bill amends §18-5-13a, relating to county board school closing or consolidation procedures, so that “From July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2021, no school will be closed…unless a special referendum is passed in the county in which the consolidation is to take place.”

There are 11 House sponsors, including lead sponsor Del. Doug Reynolds, D-Cabell. Introduced January 14. Referred to House Education, then House Finance.