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A look at Amendment 4: The Education Accountability Amendment

MORGANTOWN – Today we look at the fourth of four constitutional amendments coming before West Virginia voters in November.

Amendment 4 is called Education Accountability Amendment and aims to clarify that the rules and policies promulgated by the state Board of Education are subject to legislative review, approval, amendment, or rejection.

It was authorized by HJR 102, adopted by the Legislature in March. It passed the House 80-18 and the Senate 23-11, along party lines in both chambers.

That was the second attempt to subject the board to legislative oversight. A similar measure, HJR 1, passed the House 95-2 in 2021 but died in the Senate. A number of Democratic delegates who voted for HJR 1 in 2021 switched sides and voted against HJR 102 this past March – including four from Monongalia County, one from Wetzel who represents part of Mon, and one from Marion.

The Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability has oversight of Higher Education Policy Commission rule-making, but not the state school board’s. The state board presents its rules to LOCEA for information only.

Delegate Laura Kimble, R-Harrison, was lead sponsor of HJR 1 and a co-sponsor of HJR 102. She indicated in February that because the nine state board members are known by party affiliation – with no more than five members from any one party — politics are involved. And there’s no requirement for members to have an education background or be parents or guardians of children.

Kimble said she started this effort in 2008. The state board is somewhat insulated she said, and to some degree considers itself the fourth branch of government. “No one is really is held accountable — to the people — for the decisions made by the state board.”

HJR 102 lead sponsor Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, said in February, “This resolution simply brings the same accountability.”

Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, was among the opponents in February. “This is bad policy,” he said. It extends the desire of some legislators to interfere with curricula, policies and procedures, he noted, adding it inserts politics into board decisions.

On March 9 this year, six days after HJR 102 completed legislative action, the state board, as it was then constituted, and former Superintendent Clayton Burch, issued a statement opposing the resolution and amendment.

They said, “HJR 102 seeks to subject the state board’s rule-making authority to the fluctuations of the legislative process. In doing so, the state board would lose its ability to respond swiftly to the needs of teachers and students throughout the year.

“Decisions affecting daily classroom life would be placed in the hands of a partisan Legislature that changes every two years and only meets for 60 days each year. The WVBE meets monthly. This amendment would give a large and ever-changing body the authority to alter the shape of our classrooms with each new election.

The statement concluded: “The Constitution of West Virginia is our state government’s charter of principles and organization crafted toward the ends of justice and liberty for our state’s citizenry. It should be amended only in the interests of making our system of government more fair and efficient in promoting the welfare of all West Virginia residents. HJR 102 will have the opposite effect, making our system of education less efficient, more chaotic, and subject to partisan politics. For these reasons, we must object.”


Summary of Purpose: “The purpose of this amendment is to clarify that the rules and policies promulgated by the State Board of Education, are subject to legislative review, approval, amendment, or rejection.”

Full Text of the Amendment (proposed new language appears in bold italics; the first paragraph has been broken into three paragraphs for easier reading):

§2. Supervision of free schools.

Subject to the provisions of this section, the general supervision of the free schools of the State is vested in the West Virginia Board of Education which shall perform the duties prescribed by law. Under its supervisory duties, the West Virginia Board of Education may promulgate rules or policies which shall be submitted to the Legislature for its review and approval, amendment, or rejection, in whole or in part, in the manner prescribed by general law.

The board shall consist of nine members to be appointed by the Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, for overlapping terms of nine years. No more than five members of the board shall belong to the same political party, and in addition to the general qualifications otherwise required by the Constitution, the Legislature may require other specific qualifications for membership on the board.

No member of the board may be removed from office by the Governor except for official misconduct, incompetence, neglect of duty, or gross immorality, and then only in the manner prescribed by law for the removal by the Governor of state elective officers.

The West Virginia Board of Education shall, in the manner prescribed by law, select the State Superintendent of Free Schools who shall serve at its will and pleasure. He or she shall be the chief school officer of the state and shall perform the duties prescribed by law.

The State Superintendent of Free Schools shall be a member of the Board of Public Works as provided by subsection B, section fifty-one, article VI of this Constitution.