Armstead supports change in constitution to elect some state school board members

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Armstead supports change in constitution to elect some state school board members
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead says at least some members of the state Board of Education should be elected.

There will be a resolution introduced during the upcoming regular session that will do exactly that, Armstead (R-Kanawha) said.

“It’s such a serious area of governance and to have no one that’s actually elected directly by the people involved in this decision making is something that gives a great deal of concern,” Armstead said.

The West Virginia Constitution currently calls for the appointment of all nine members to nine-year terms. The resolution would propose a change in the constitution that would require approval by voters.

“I do believe we will move forward with a constitutional amendment. That would be something that the voters of West Virginia would have to do. It wouldn’t be something that we could just do by statute. We will work very carefully at trying to move forward with a constitutional amendment that would be put before the voters,” Armstead said.

Gov. Jim Justice appointed six of the current board members in the last year. Armstead said his support of electing board members has nothing to do with the current board.

The proposed constitutional amendment would also require school board policies and regulations to come before the legislature for approval in the rule-making review process that has to be followed by all other state agencies. The change is needed, Armstead said.

“What we have and what I hear constantly from principals and teachers is that there’s this constant churning of rules and regulations out of Charleston that they are always having to try and comply with. It takes time, it takes resources, it takes effort that could be better used to educate our students,” Armstead said.

House Education Committee Chairman Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson) previously told MetroNews he’s heard discussion for years about changing how the state school board is comprised. This past regular session, the House Education Committee took up and passed a resolution that could have resulted in elections for state school board in 2020.

“It is definitely not a response to any recent events. It’s something that’s been a matter of debate,” Espinosa said.

Had the resolution passed the full Legislature, which didn’t happen, the question of an amendment to the state Constitution would have gone to a statewide vote.

Under the resolution introduced in House Education, districts would have been proportionately divided among West Virginia’s congressional districts. Those elected would serve 4-year terms.

The committee amended the resolution to allow for the election of six of the nine state board members on a nonpartisan basis. Three members would continue to be appointed by the governor from the state at large.

The 60-day regular legislative session begins Wednesday.

MetroNews Statewide Correspondent Brad McElhinny contributed to this story.