CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former House Education Chairman Paul Espinosa will resume that position, at least for the short term through a special session focusing on changes to West Virginia’s education system.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw confirmed the move to MetroNews. Hanshaw said no decision has been made yet on who will assume the Education Committee’s chairman position long term.
The switch is necessary following last week’s resignation of Delegate Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison, as Education chairman.
Hamrick was forced to step down because of a relationship with an intern for the House Education Committee.
Lawmakers have focused on the likelihood of a special session on education changes later this month.
Espinosa, R-Jefferson, was the House Education chairman for several years, but became the majority whip when Hanshaw was chosen to be the Speaker.
Espinosa acknowledged accepting the chairman duty.
“With our special session on education likely to reconvene in the coming weeks, I appreciate the need for experienced leadership and am happy to serve the House in this interim role,” he stated.
“I remain hopeful that we can reach agreement on comprehensive education reform that provides needed investments and flexibility for traditional public education while providing modest school choice options the rest of the nation enjoys.”
Committees typically don’t play a major role in special sessions, but a chairman with expertise in a topic being considered often has to introduce and explain bills, while also answering questions posed by other lawmakers during floor sessions.
American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia President Fred Albert said he respects the choice of Espinosa.
“While we may not always agree on every issue, Chairman Espinosa is well-versed on education law and policy,” Albert stated. “He is a knowledgeable and experienced legislator who will run an efficient committee.”
Delegate Mark Dean, the Republican vice chairman, is principal of Gilbert PreK-8.
Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, reacted during an appearance on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” He suggested Dean should have been moved up.
“I believe Mark Dean should have been elevated from vice chair to chair. He has the credentials to do so,” Fluharty said. “The problem is, he thinks for himself; not for ALEC.”
Fluharty suggested Espinosa is more likely to favor charter schools and education savings accounts, which were controversial proposals during the regular session.
“We’re setting up a situation where I think we’re going to have a quagmire again,” Fluharty said.