Legalities

February 14, 2020 - Volume 40 Issue 6

Legalities

By Trey Morrone

Q. We’ve been advised that the education reform bill passed by the Legislature in 2019 (House Bill 206) requires every county board of education to adopt four new policies. True? What are they?

A. Policy making is a central role of county boards of education and House Bill 206 requires each county board to adopt four policies. Generally speaking, each county is required to adopt a policy: (1) defining “qualifications” for certain reduction-in-force decisions; (2) addressing how the county board will exercise its duties as an “authorizer” of public charter schools; (3) allowing open student enrollment; and (4) establishing a process to evaluate the operation of an approved LSIC alternative to the operation of a school. A brief overview of each policy is provided below.

  • Qualifications — When implementing a reduction in force in the past, county boards identified the least senior professional employee. House Bill 206 declares that, in the case of professional employees, “all decisions on reductions in force shall be based on qualifications.” The meaning of the term “qualifications” is left to each county board to set forth in a written policy and House Bill 206 provides various rules about what can or cannot be included in the policy. Your county board should have its policy in place for the 2020 personnel season.
  • Charter School Authorizer — As an authorizing authority for charter schools, each county board has tremendous responsibility with respect to the oversight and authorization of public charter schools. County boards are required to establish and maintain policies and practices which must include standards relating to: (a) organizational capacity and infrastructure; (b) evaluating applications; (c) ongoing public charter school oversight and evaluation; and (d) charter approval, renewal, and revocation decision-making.
  • Open Enrollment — For many years, the law has provided that a student residing in one county can attend public school in another West Virginia county if the school boards of both counties approve the transfer. For school years beginning on or after July 1, 2020, House Bill 206 requires every county board of education to, instead, adopt and implement an open enrollment policy that permits inter-county student transfers without charging tuition and without requiring approval of the school board of a student’s county of residence. A number of items must be clearly articulated in the policy and a county board may give preference to various items as well.
  • LSIC Proposed Alternatives — LSICs can continue to propose alternatives to the operations of their schools, and House Bill expressly encourages them to do so. However, the standard for the proposals have changed and county boards must establish a process to evaluate the operation of an approved LSIC alternative to the operation of the school.

House Bill 206 was passed on June 24, 2019, and it was effective upon passage.

Morrone is special counsel at Bowles Rice LLP and a member of the firm’s Education Law Group.