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Cabell BOE expected to denounce omnibus bill Thursday

January 31, 2019

HUNTINGTON - The Cabell County Board of Education has called an emergency meeting Thursday, Jan. 31, and is expected to adopt a resolution opposing the controversial education “omnibus” bill currently in the West Virginia Legislature.

The proposed resolution outlines the district’s opposition to “any and all efforts to use public funds for education reform” or any other changes that would not benefit the district’s most disadvantaged students.

Cabell County would join a growing number of school districts across West Virginia that have voiced their grievances with the bill - chiefly that public funds would be funneled instead toward private charter schools if passed. Kanawha County Schools approved a similar resolution Wednesday.

The meeting is open to the public and set for 5:30 p.m. at the district’s central office at 2850 5th Ave. in Huntington. The resolution is the only item up for discussion Thursday.

The resolution begins by stressing that West Virginia’s public education system is underfunded and understaffed and strained by the opioid epidemic’s many byproducts, and that county boards of education are already under severe financial stress due to previous cuts.

It continues that any reduction in state financial support would “negatively impact our ability to serve the children and families of our community,” particularly the most disadvantaged children in the system. The resolution calls certain provisions of the bill “detrimental to our public schools” and the district’s ability to provide a complete system.

The resolution ends by adding that taxes and policy that reduce revenue for public schools in any way must be avoided.

The resolution can be read in its entirety at Cabell County Schools’ website in the board meeting agenda for Jan. 31. A period for public comment will be open prior to the vote.

At a public forum hosted by the American Federation of Teachers on Monday, Cabell County Superintendent of Schools Ryan Saxe spoke out against the entirety of the bill, calling it rushed and bereft of anything to benefit public schools.

“There are deep concerns regarding components of the Omnibus Education Bill, and our board members have requested this opportunity to discuss their concerns and to possibly take an official position on Senate Bill 451,” Saxe added in an email Wednesday.

The 144-page education “omnibus” bill would, in its entirety, allow counties to increase their tax levy rates by majority vote of the BOE, establish charter schools, increase the number of students allowed in elementary school classrooms to 31, prevent payment of employees when schools are closed during a work stoppage, open enrollment allowing students to attend schools in other counties, and remove seniority as the determining factor in employment, transfers and reductions in force.

Aside from its contents, the bill garnered more suspicion after it was approved by a committee within nearly 24 hours and fast-tracked to the Senate floor in a method used only three times in the past 102 years.

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