Breaking down what Amendment 4 means for West Virginia voters

What Amendment 4 means for West Virginia voters
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 7:48 PM EDT
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - West Virginia voters will need to decide how much of a role the state Legislature can have in educational policies.

A Summary of Purpose for the Education Accountability Amendment, known as Amendment 4, will appear on each ballot for voters to decide if they are “for” or “against” it.

The summary of ballots will read as: “clarify the rules and policies promulgated by the State Board of Education, are subject to legislative review, approval, amendment or rejection”.

Supporters of the amendment like Delegate Dana Ferrell, a Kanawha County Republican, believe it keeps the Department of Education operating like other state agencies.

“Currently, whenever the Legislature passes a law, it goes to a department or agency that implements that law and they set the rules and so forth that that, that that is carried out under those conditions, then that those rules are brought back to the Rules Committee and the Legislature, and were able to review those to make sure they’re following the spirit of that law that was passed with the Department of Education, that hasn’t been the case at this point,” Ferrell explained. “Amendment 4 will bring the Department of Education within all the other departments and agencies that are already there, it just says not changing anything that we haven’t already been doing. It just brings department education under that same umbrella.”

Opponents like Dale Lee, who is the president of the West Virginia Education Association, says the amendment conflicts with the spirit of education.

“We believe that the Constitution separates education for a reason. It’s to take the politics out of public education, allowing the Legislature the right to amend, reject or change any policy would put politics back into it,” he said.

Lee said a frequently changing Legislature and shifting interests in education could have harmful effects on students long-term, but Ferrell said parents and voters real-time concerns are valid and should be kept in mind when considering how students learn.

“It could change the direction of public education every two years, when you have a new Legislature coming in; that’s not what you want. In a public school system, you want continuity, you want to have experts making decisions about public education, and the experts or the educators in the field, not the legislators who are coming in at all different aspects of life,” Lee said. “There are always buzzwords surrounding public education, and you know what the current buzzwords are and those buzzwords could change the direction that we go in every two years, depending on who’s in the Legislature. Books could be banned, curriculum could be banned, curriculum could be altered, depending on those buzzwords.”

“When we’re looking at this, do we want the policies and the all to be carried out by somebody at the local level?” Ferrell added. “Do we want, you know, this Department of Education may come in and rough ride right overtop of 55 county boards of education?”