Education, Government, Latest News, Monongalia County

The politics and particulars of Amendment 4

Monongalia Schools Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. used the “p” word on Wednesday as he discussed the fortunes of Amendment 4, which would have granted sweeping oversight of West Virginia’s public schools to the state legislature.

But that word wasn’t “politics.”

For him, it was “practicality.”

Voters the day before gave a failing grade to the constitutional amendment, which critics said would have hamstrung the state Board of Education on any action it would have wanted to enact or undertake in the future.

That would have meant having to garner a collective OK from the legislature on everything from standards for advanced placement courses to new statutes for, say, high school lacrosse teams.

And lawmakers, said Campbell, who previously headed Tucker County Schools, have enough entries on their job description as it is.

While they’re elected to create and oversee state policy as a whole, he said, state Board of Education members, who are appointed, have just one job — multi-tiered, as it may be.

“They give 100% focus to our schools,” the superintendent said. “Lawmakers, with all the good work they do, aren’t able to give that focus.”

For Dale Lee, though, the word leading up to Election Day was “politics” — of the worst, base kind, he said.

Lee, who is president of the West Virginia Education Association, a leading union for school employees, characterized Amendment 4 as a “power grab” for the state’s Republican-led legislature.

The amendment was fronted while West Virginia’s public school system is still getting over COVID, as it were.

Recent national assessments showed record lows in reading and math scores, which educators say is a direct boomerang to the pandemic and statewide shift to remote learning wrought by it in 2020 — as positive diagnoses and deaths began to mount.

Now, the national angst is pegged even more, over concerns of increasing gun violence in schools.

Couple that with classrooms not always fronted by educators certified in the subject, given across the board shortages in the profession.

The state’s first-ever charter schools are also making frontier inroads, in the meantime.

West Virginia’s Supreme Court last month granted a measure — reversed from a lower court ruling — that now allows a voucher of $4,300 in state money for families that qualify, which could end up being a boon for such schools.

That’s because the allotment may be used as parents see fit, for private education or homeschooling.

In the meantime, just five counties — Berkeley, Hampshire, Hancock, Jefferson and Morgan — voted in the affirmative for the amendment.

Mon voters were 65% opposed to it, according the numbers, which are still unofficial.

Voters across Marion, Preston and Harrison counties, meanwhile, cast nay votes at nearly the same rate.

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