Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Bill Offers 'Similar Flexibilities' of Charter Schools ; Tomblin-Backed Alternative Would Allow Schools to Ask for Waivers from State Laws

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Bill Offers 'Similar Flexibilities' of Charter Schools ; Tomblin-Backed Alternative Would Allow Schools to Ask for Waivers from State Laws

Article excerpt

The West Virginia Legislature is close to passing a governor- backed bill that would allow schools to request freedom from state statutes, including personnel laws. The Innovation in Education Act (HB 4295), which is up for a final vote in the Senate today, would end funding for the existing Innovation Zones and Local Solution Dropout Prevention and Recovery Innovation Zones.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has planned on reallocating $2.5 million from the current Innovation Zones program to the new Innovation in Education program.

"By giving our teachers and students the opportunity to drive education, this program provides similar flexibilities offered by charter schools but adapts those concepts to better serve our state's students, Tomblin spokeswoman Shayna Varner wrote in an email to the Gazette-Mail.

A bill to allow West Virginia's first charter schools didn't move forward this session, but Tomblin's proposed alternative has. It allows schools to request flexibility to innovate to improve education in certain areas, including entrepreneurship and science, technology, engineering and math, often called STEM.

Innovation in Education plans would have to be developed by a school's principal and faculty with input from its Local School Improvement Council, the local school board, the local superintendent and, if the school is a high school, the school's students.

The bill would allow schools to request that the state Board of Education grant them freedom from state board policies. But it also allows schools to request waivers from state laws - though individuals interviewed by the Gazette-Mail Monday said state law waivers would require further approval from lawmakers.

Current law bans schools and school systems from requesting, under the Innovation Zone program, exemptions to certain state personnel regulations.

One of the sections schools currently can't request waivers from is titled: "Assignment, transfer, promotion, demotion, suspension and recommendation of dismissal of school personnel by superintendent; preliminary notice of transfer; hearing on the transfer; proof required. …

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