|The Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability (LOCEA), meeting Monday, received state Superintendent Michele Blatt’s statutorily required report about the state of public education and a review of two state Board of Education policies and other required public education reports.
LOCEA also approved seven higher education policies.
As part of her report concerning the state of public schools, Superintendent Blatt provided lawmakers with county superintendents’ recommendations for legislative considerations.
Referring to the state’s four county superintendent quadrants, which were placed in law in 2017 when the state abolished Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs) to create Educational Service Cooperatives (ESCs), Blatt outlined county superintendents’ legislative priorities. She cited the “financial cliff” county boards of education face when federal pandemic funds expire, which may prompt changes in school board central office staffing.
‘Financial Cliff’ tied to federal pandemic funds
West Virginia law, bolstered by court decrees, state Grievance Board rulings, and state and county board policies, provides elaborate procedures that school districts follow to make personnel decisions, which often result in rippling staff alignments that affect entire school district staffing.
Superintendent Blatt said the state Board of Education is providing guidance to counties about pandemic fiscal issues.
Broad areas cited by county superintendents include:
· broadband access;
· “Funding for Student Learning & Well-Being,” including increased funding for the School Building Authority;
· recruitment and retention of highly qualified educators; and
· school safety.
Senate Bill 99, which the Legislature adopted in March, establishes “voluntary” frameworks for county boards to consider ways to share central office staffing positions, including suggestions for legislation to mitigate effects on smaller school districts.
Counties haven’t held the meetings, prompted by a 2021 Senate Concurrent Resolution, that established a regional approach to staffing county-level administrative services.
Public education observers conclude quadrant recommendations may replace SB99 voluntary meetings.
Public education reports reviewed
Commission members had few questions regarding the reports regarding the statutorily required Commission reports. Senate Education Chair Amy Grady of Mason County noted 41% of classroom aides serving in self-contained classrooms for special needs students moved to “lower grade” classrooms, creating shifting dynamics for filling self-contained classrooms. Deputy State Superintendent Dr. Sonya White said the positions are being filled, although not all county reports are in.
LOCEA reviews two State Board policies
Senate Education counsel Hank Hager reviewed two policies the State Board is likely to place on public comment, one of which addresses readiness standards for career technical education. The other policy is amended to conform to House Bill 3035, the “Third Grade Success Act.”
Seven higher education rules approved
House Education counsel Melissa White reviewed seven higher education rules, which LOCEA approved, including a rule change reducing the required GPA for PROMISE Scholarship retention from 3.0 to 2.75 on a 4.0 scale. LOCEA also approved a rule for implementing provisions of dual-credit pilot projects that allow students to receive both public secondary school and higher education credits.
Unlike public education, higher education rules (policies) are subject to legislative approval.
Last year, voters rejected a constitutional amendment compelling legislative review of State Board policies.
Other higher education reports are related to the needs of students who are veterans and leveraging federal funds for higher education research.
Joint Committee visits Herbert Hoover High School
As reported by various news outlets, the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education visited Kanawha County’s newly completed Herbert Hoover High School. Click here for a report from WVMetroNews.