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This is a developing story and will be updated.
On Wednesday, Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, announced she would challenge Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, for the presidency of the West Virginia Senate.
Rucker said she was frustrated Republicans have failed on priorities like tax reform and banning abortion. She said, unlike the political dynamic in the House of Delegates, her philosophies don’t differ that much from Blair’s. However, Rucker does take pride in her leadership style.
“I am honest and forthright and welcome opinions and information from everyone,” Rucker said. “I don’t separate myself from those who disagree with me, I am actually happy to learn from them. And I try to work out differences of opinion, even if they are in opposition to what I want to do.”
Also on Wednesday, Blair replaced Rucker as chair of the Senate Education Committee. He appointed Sen. Amy Grady, R-Mason, to the position.
“Sen. Rucker has done a tremendous job in promoting and advancing school choice options in the state of West Virginia,” Blair said. “We have made monumental strides in providing educational options and expanding school choices for our families. It’s now time to usher in a new era with a focus on supporting our state’s public schools and increasing student achievement. I believe there is nobody better to lead that focus than Sen. Grady.”
Grady was elected to the Senate in 2020. She is vice chairman of the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee and serves as a member of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development, Judiciary, Military, and Natural Resources committees.
She’s a career public school educator and is currently a 4th grade teacher at Leon Elementary School in Mason County. She is the first full-time public school educator to serve as chairman of the Senate Education Committee since 1970.
Grady has been a public school classroom teacher since 2007 and a 4th grade teacher for the last 12 years
“I am excited and humbled to be trusted with such an important role in our state legislature. I look forward to assuming my new role and working with others to make positive changes in public education in West Virginia,” Grady said in a statement. “My focus when it comes to education is (and always will be) making sure that student success is at the center of every decision considered.”
With the appointment of Grady, Blair also said he’s been working with state education leaders to establish an office and position that supports non-traditional education programs.
“We can’t simply check the box and move on simply because the legislation has passed,” Blair said. “We need to ensure the appropriate support is provided to parents and entities taking advantage of education options so that they flourish and are successful.”
As chair of the Senate Education Committee, Rucker was the architect of the Hope Scholarship program, now under court review for constitutionality.
“I have complete confidence that we were within the constitutional grounds,” Rucker said. “The West Virginia Constitution mandates that we provide a free public system of education. It does not say that that is the only system that can be supported.”
Rucker said she also takes pride in her other achievements as education committee chair.
“Until our education reform bill, the local school boards really did not have much ability to do anything,” Rucker said. “Everything was decided centrally in Charleston. I’m very proud of the fact that I fulfilled that campaign promise to bring much more control and power to the local school systems.”
President Blair said Sen. Rucker would be a perfect fit and a “rock star” as the shepherd of West Virginia’s non-traditional education programs.