State school board president speaks out against massive proposed education bill

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West Virginia State Capitol

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Board of Education President David Perry today issued a statement on the Senate’s Education Reform bill (SB451):

“Speaking solely on behalf of myself, I have tremendous concerns about many items in the Senate’s Omnibus bill. We continually hear about the toll the devastating opioid epidemic is taking on our children and that teachers are not currently equipped to provide the support these children need and deserve. Adding six additional children in classrooms will only expound this problem, and I believe is a grave mistake.

“I am also troubled by the Education Savings Account (ESA) program proposed in the legislation. The few other states that have operating ESA programs have put safeguards in place to provide a school choice option to parents while not simultaneously dealing a devastating financial blow to the majority of children in this state that attend public school. The West Virginia Board of Education’s finance committee recently found that West Virginia’s state aid funding formula is grossly underfunded and the ESA program would further exacerbate the problem.

“Finally, I am concerned about the charter school proposal included in the bill. It is entirely disingenuous for legislators to continually say they value and respect teachers, while at the same time advancing legislation that includes no requirement that individuals providing instruction at public charter schools be certified teachers. The bill, as currently constructed, allows public funds to be diverted entirely to private entities and will further marginalize our less-fortunate populations. Year after year, the legislature places requirements on public school classrooms that it believes are essential for students’ success and is now suggesting that schools will be able to do better if they are not subject to those requirements. West Virginia’s students should not be used as part of an experiment to check the box. 

“As a veteran of the public education system and for the sake of our public education students, I sincerely hope cooler and reasonable heads will prevail as this legislation is discussed over the next few weeks. While changes to West Virginia’s public education system are most certainly needed, I personally believe that some of the proposals in the Senate Omnibus bill will not work to improve public education, but rather inflict great harm on our system, and possibly run afoul to the landmark Recht decision.

“Given the events that have transpired on the bill to date and because of the unprecedented, rapid pace and process this bill is following, I feel it is imperative the State Board of Education weigh in on this matter.”