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Amendment 4 on the Nov. 8 ballot will give the West Virginia Legislature authority to review all rules and policies set by the state Board of Education.
WVPB talked with two West Virginia teachers who both hold positions of power and have very different views on the amendment.
Every West Virginia state department and agency must submit its rules to the Legislative Rule-Making Review Committee, except for the Board of Education.
The West Virginia Constitution currently allows the Board of Education independence, giving it “general supervision of the free schools of the state.” But, it also states the board “shall perform such duties as may be prescribed by law.”
Amber McCoy teaches fourth grade at Kellogg Elementary. She’s the president of Wayne County’s teacher organization and an officer with the West Virginia Education Association.
McCoy said it will be detrimental to allow legislators to dictate what happens in her classroom.
“We haven’t had a whole lot of success dealing with the legislature with regards to public schools in recent years,” McCoy said. “They don’t seem to have the best interest of our students at heart. I feel like this is just a political power grab, just another way to put a chokehold on public education in our state.”
Sen. Amy Grady, R-Mason, is a fourth grade teacher at Leon Elementary and the new chair of the Senate Education Committee. Grady said she wasn’t sure how she felt about Amendment 4, so she asked her constituents, from both parties, their feelings. She determined that legislative oversight was the opposite of a power grab.
“I don’t think that it’s something that necessarily most legislators would want. It’s too easy to say, well, we can’t do anything about that, that’s a policy decision,” Grady said. “This would cut that out. You absolutely could not say, I can’t do anything about that. It’s a policy decision, you actually could be forced to do something about it.”
Grady said currently the Board of Education is like a fourth branch of government — and she argues that’s not how it’s supposed to work.
“Every other state agency that we have, in West Virginia, the legislature does approve rules or policies,” Grady said. “The state Board of Education is totally different. They make up their own, there’s no oversight, there’s no accountability. These are people who aren’t elected by the people.”
McCoy said the state constitution provides the necessary Board of Education oversight.
“There is a reason that the members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. That is their oversight, in my opinion,” McCoy said. “The fact that we can’t have more than five members belonging to the same political party, I think that, that sends the message that they knew that there might be a need to protect the educational system from political power play.”
Grady said legislative educational review will give school personnel with grievances a more open avenue of redress.
“I’m not saying that they don’t get heard or that nobody listens, but they can literally say I don’t like this and if it’s not changed, then I’m gonna hold you accountable,” Grady said. “They would have more of one right now with this. They could call and they could speak to people who are making rules and policies.”
McCoy said there are already appropriate channels of redress, she’s never heard anything to the contrary and believes more legislative control would mean less classroom freedom.
“That’s probably going to be the end of public education as we know it,” McCoy said. “It’s no secret that they have a real agenda so far as funneling money to homeschool, and private schools, the Hope Scholarship, all of these different things that have been introduced in recent years. That takes the cut from the public schools. I mean, the money comes from somewhere.”
Grady said her commitment as Senate Education Committee chair is to students, teachers and the classroom.
Both of these fourth grade instructors ask voters to study Amendment 4, research all slides and decide what they think is best for the children of West Virginia.