Lawmakers begin discussing providing more flexibility in public education

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A group of state lawmakers started what could be a several month discussion Monday on providing more flexibility in public education.

House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, said the interim study topic is focused on “additional flexibility at the site level.”

The interim committee, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, made up of members of the House of Delegates and state Senate heard from several public education stakeholders during the two-hour meeting at the state capitol.

West Virginia Association of Elementary/Middle School Principals Executive Director Mickey Blackwell said offering more flexibility could be a good thing but he also urged lawmakers to move ahead with caution.

“We need to make sure that when we talk about flexibility we are holding to standards and you answer the question, “How will this positively affect student achievement?” Blackwell said.

Blackwell, a former principal and county school superintendent, said the state doesn’t want to see county hopping in connection with things about GPA requirements to play sports.

Mickey Blackwell

“We want to make sure we aren’t lowering a bar that’s been set by our educators,” Blackwell said.

Both West Virginia American Federation of Teachers President Fred Albert and West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee spoke before the committee, both asking that classroom teachers be included in the flexibility discussion.

“I’m going to ask that we not only have representation but ask us and let us recommend people to bring to you,” Lee said. “We have a golden opportunity to make great strides and let’s not let it go by without saying we did everything we can to do what’s best for our students.”

Albert said the flexibility should include additional training for teachers who are faced with more and more traumatic situations.

“Many of our students are in survival mode,” Albert told the committee. “Our educators need additional professional development & training on trauma impact. We need additional professionals in our schools.”

The discussion is expected to continue at the next interim committee meetings set for Sept. 23-24.

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