The West Virginia Senate has passed a bill that requires county school boards and county superintendents to comply with instructions given by the West Virginia Board of Education.
Already in state law, the state Board of Education may take over a county board if it refuses to comply with a ruling given by the state BOE.
According to supporters, SB 588 seeks to avoid a full takeover and instead help county boards of education get back into compliance by giving them options on how to do so while still maintaining their authority.
Opponents of the bill argue that it is “a takeover by a different name” and infringes on local autonomy.
The bill would permit the state superintendent to approve county board agendas as well as any expenditures by county board members — if that board is not compliant with a ruling given by the state BOE.
In the original version of the bill, the measure also included withholding of pay for county board members, but this was amended out of the bill after heated debate over the weekend. State aid to counties could still be withheld.
SB 588 passed 21-12 and now heads to the House of Delegates for consideration.
The bill comes after tensions arose between the state Board of Education and a handful of county school boards that opted to keep students in remote learning models out of concerns from the coronavirus pandemic. This went against the state board’s ruling, which required all school districts, K-8, to reopen to full, in-person learning regardless of the color on the state’s coronavirus risk map.