CHARLESTON, W.Va – House Education Committee Chairman Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, said today the 2016 Legislative Session was a productive one for his committee, with 18 of the bills reported from committee passing the Legislature and either approved or awaiting consideration by the Governor.
Key pieces of legislation approved by both the House of Delegates and Senate were House Bill 4014, Preventing the State Board of Education from implementing Common Core academic standards and assessments; House Bill 4295, Relating to the School Innovation Zones Act; House Bill 4301, Relating to a framework for initiating comprehensive transformation of school leadership; House Bill 4310, Relating to the West Virginia University Institute of Technology; and House Bill 4730, Relating to computer science courses of instruction.
“I’m extremely proud of the legislation our committee was able to enact over the last 60 days,” Chairman Espinosa said. “I’m particularly pleased with the strong working relationship we forged with the Senate Education Committee, led by my counterpart, Sen. Dave Sypolt (R-Preston), which allowed us to complete legislative action on a number of key pieces of legislation that will positively affect education in our State.”
House Bill 4014 would establish an Academic Standards Evaluation Panel charged with evaluating West Virginia’s College and Career Readiness standards in English language arts, mathematics and science, and make recommendations to the state board of education and the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability (LOCEA) by October 1, 2016. The legislation would require the state board to withdraw from the Memorandum of Agreement with the Common Core Consortium and withdraw as a sponsor state.
Additionally, the bill prohibits the state board from acquiring or implementing any assessment developed to specifically align with Common Core state standards including the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and limits the amount of instructional time that a student spends in testing to 2 percent of instructional time.
House Bill 4295 would transition from the current Innovation in Schools grant program to a new format focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), community partnerships, entrepreneurship, career pathways, and the arts.
This legislation would provide a mechanism for public schools designated by the state board as Innovation in Education schools to redesign their curriculum, instructional delivery and instructional strategies to enhance student engagement, to develop meaningful community partnerships and to operate under greater flexibility to increase student achievement.
Schools applying for the Innovation in Education School designation would be required to operate according to a plan developed by the school’s principal and faculty with input from its local school improvement council, the county board, the county superintendent and, if the school is a high school, the students of the school.
House Bill 4301 would direct the state board to convene the relevant interested parties, including, but not limited to, principals, teachers, superintendents, county board members, educator preparation program personnel, legislators or their designees and a Governor’s designee to assist the state board in developing state board policies, practices and recommended statutory changes consistent with the goal of developing strong school leadership.
House Bill 4730 would require the state board to submit a plan to LOCEA for the implementation of computer science instruction and learning standards in our public schools to ensure that the computer science concepts and courses in our K-12 curriculum can adequately prepare our students for current and future opportunities. The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2024, there will be more than 800,000 new jobs in the STEM fields, more than two-thirds of which are likely to be in computing occupations. Computer science is an established discipline at the collegiate and post-graduate levels, but unfortunately, computer science concepts and courses have not kept pace in the K-12 curriculum to the point that the nation faces a serious shortage of computer scientists at all levels that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
“As a member of the Southern Regional Education Board’s Technology Commission, chaired by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, I was particularly pleased to sponsor this legislation that will help prepare West Virginia students for expanded job opportunities in the computer science field,” Espinosa said.
Other enacted legislation includes:
• House Bill 4171, Relating to the Public School Calendar
• House Bill 4175, Relating generally to home schooling
• House Bill 4261, Prohibiting the sale or transfer of student data to vendors and other profit making entities
• House Bill 4310, Relating to the West Virginia University Institute of Technology
• House Bill 4316, Relating to reimbursement of the certification fee for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification
• House Bill 4322, Expanding the Learn and Earn Program
• House Bill 4351, Transferring the Cedar Lakes Camp and Conference Center from the state board to the Department of Agriculture
• House Bill 4461, Relating to School Building Authority School Major Improvement Fund eligibility
• House Bill 4566, Relating to school personnel
• House Bill 4617, Related to the Underwood-Smith and Nursing Scholarship Programs
• Senate Bill 146, Related to Early Childhood Education
• Senate Bill 369, Reducing duplicative legislative education reporting requirements
• Senate Bill 459, Related to the Mountaineer Challenge Academy
• Senate Bill 483, Related to Marshall and Wyoming County Local School Improvement Council waivers
“I’m particularly proud and appreciative of our House Education Committee staff and membership who worked tirelessly during the 60-day session to get this important legislation across the finish line,” Espinosa said. “This legislation represents important progress in improving our state’s education system and will provide stepping stones as we contemplate further education reform for consideration during legislative interims and the 2017 session.”