West Virginia Legislature sends amendment giving itself authority over state board of education rules and policies to Nov. 8 ballot

The West Virginia House of Delegates approved a constitutional amendment on March 3 giving the legislature the power to approve, amend, or repeal rules put forward by the State Board of Education. It was the final vote required to certify the measure for the Nov. 8 ballot.

The State Board of Education is a nine-member board with nine-year terms. Members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. Not more than five members can belong to the same political party. The board sets rules and policies governing the public school education system and county boards of education.

The constitution states that “the general supervision of the free schools of the State shall be vested in the West Virginia board of education.” It also states that the board shall perform “such duties as may be prescribed by law.” This constitutional amendment would add that the board’s authority over general supervision of public education is subject to a requirement that its rules and policies must be submitted to the legislature for review and approval, amendment, or rejection.

Miller Hall, president of the State Board of Education, opposes the amendment. Hall said, “To add another layer of politics, I don’t think it’s good; I don’t think that’s a good move.”

Senator Patricia Rucker (R-16), chair of the Senate Education Committee, said, “It’s actually making certain for those who elected us that we are overseeing and holding accountable, and that the laws that we do pass do get applied correctly.”

The West Virginia State Legislature can refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot by a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

The House passed House Joint Resolution 102 on Feb. 22, proposing the amendment in a vote of 80-18, with two absent. The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 23 to 11 on Feb. 28. The Senate made a technical amendment correcting a statute citation number, which sent HJR 102 back to the House for concurrence. The House concurred by a vote of 74-20 on March 3, 2022, with six absent.

The final votes in each chamber were largely along party lines. In the Senate, one Democrat joined 22 Republicans in support, and one Republican joined 10 Democrats in opposition. In the House, one Democrat joined all 73 voting Republicans in support, and the remaining 20 voting Democrats were opposed. West Virginia has a Republican trifecta. Republicans have had majority control of both the Senate and the House since 2014.

This measure was the fourth constitutional amendment certified for the 2022 ballot in West Virginia. The other three measures concern court authority over impeachment proceedings, incorporation of churches, and a business activity use property tax exemption.

A total of 72 statewide measures have been certified for 2022 ballots in 31 states so far. Four other education-related measures have been certified in four other states. Three relate to taxes or appropriations to fund education in Massachusetts, Nevada, and New Mexico. The other would allow in-state tuition for non-citizen students in Arizona.

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