Educational policies were another big topic of discussion this year. In higher education, the WV Invests grant program was updated in Senate bill 335 to make it clear that the grant covers tuition, mandatory fees and academic program fees, which now includes labor equipment costs. The drug testing requirement was also changed to yearly unless a positive result. A reminder, the WV Invests Grant is a state-funded grant program that pays toward the full cost of basic tuition and mandatory fees for select certificate and associate degree programs at a West Virginia public two- or four-year institution. Priority is given to programs in high-demand fields. This is a last-dollar-in program, meaning it will pay for any amount up to the total cost of tuition and mandatory fees not already covered by other state or federal grants or scholarships and institutional tuition waivers. To apply go to www.wvinvests.org.
Senate bill 307 allows nonresident members of a reserve unit in WV and any member of the US Armed Forces who reside here to qualify for instate tuition.
House Bill 2001 creates the WV Jumpstart Savings Program to allow families, individuals, or employers to contribute tax free dollars to the account for use in pursuing a trade or an occupation related to trades. The funds saved can be used for tools, equipment or supplies, apprenticeship programs and associate degrees from a community and technical college and to open a business.
In K-12 education, House Bill 2012 expanded the public charter school concept and included two virtual charter schools. With the pandemic, educational options for parents became more of a priority and reality. House Bill 2013 creates the Hope Scholarship program which is an education savings account that equals about $4600 of state funding a year. The funds will be managed by the WV Treasurer’s Office and will only be able to be used by approved vendors to reduce fraudulent expenses. The program will go into effect July 1, 2022 with applications opening March 1, 2022 for children currently enrolled in the WV public school system or entering kindergarten. The funds can be used for educational options other than the traditional public school. Federal and county education funding will still go to the local public school system even with the child not attending that school system. Interim studies of education will continue to look at ways to improve our local school systems. One suggestion I have had is for the committee to set up a means to gain input from teachers and others in the system instead of relying on the teachers’ unions. While they have offered input in the past, it has usually related to pay and benefits and not items to change in the education section of the State Code. Other education systems can be successful at times due to the flexibility they have to change easily when something is not working and not be so confined to so many statutes. We need our educators to have more freedom to teach as is necessary for the students they have each class period and each semester, and not to be stuck in certain methods. Over the next nine months I hope we are able to develop good ideas for change of the current system and not have to expand the creation of other systems. Let’s make our current system better for all.
Delegate Amy Summers (For Mr. Litzinger: Christian, Wife, Mother, Nurse, AND WV House Majority Leader working for you) cell 304-641-1159, [email protected], 98 Meadland Rd., Flemington, WV 26347