West Virginia Amendment 4, Legislative Approval of the State Board of Education Rules Measure (2022)
In November 2022, West Virginia voters considered Amendment 4 (wv amendment 4) , also known as the Legislative Approval of the State Board of Education Rules Amendment. This proposed constitutional amendment would have required the State Board of Education to submit its rules and policies to the state legislature for approval, amendment, or rejection. The measure was ultimately defeated at the polls, but its background and implications provide insights into education policy debates in West Virginia.
WV State Board of Education
Overview of Board
The West Virginia Board of Education is a nine-member board that oversees the state’s public education system. Members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate to serve nine-year terms. No more than five members can be from the same political party.
The Board sets policies and rules for West Virginia’s 55 county school systems, along with other duties prescribed in state law. This includes areas like graduation requirements, teacher certifications, and educational standards.
History and Changes Over Time
The legislature first established the Board of Education in statute in 1908. In the following decades, laws passed by the legislature modified the Board’s structure and responsibilities.
Key changes include:
- 1919: Board consolidated with higher education governing boards
- 1958: WV voters add Board to state constitution
- 1969: Board split from higher education
So while the legislature created the Board, its core authority over K-12 education policies has been in the state constitution since 1958.
WV Amendment 4 Details
Text of Amendment
The key text Amendment 4 would have added to the constitution stated the Board’s authority is:
“Subject to the provisions of this section, the rules or policies which shall be submitted to the Legislature for its review and approval, amendment, or rejection, in whole or in part, in the manner prescribed by general law.”
This would have made all Board rules subject to legislative approval going forward.
Changes to State Constitution
Amendment 4 specifically targeted Section 2 of Article XII of the WV Constitution. This section vested “general supervision” of schools in the Board and required it to “perform such duties as may be prescribed by law.”
The amendment would have clarified this authority over education policy was conditional on legislative review and approval of Board rules. A 2017 WV Supreme Court case had affirmed the Board’s discretion over policies under the existing language.
Arguments For and Against
- Increased accountability and oversight over education policies
- Board is not directly accountable to voters
- Politicizes education policy further
- Creates inconsistency with shifting legislative majorities
- Board needs to focus on education, not politics
In the end, West Virginia voters rejected Amendment 4 by a 42% yes to 58% no vote. This kept the Board’s constitutional authority intact without the proposed legislative oversight provisions.
Similar Measures in Other States
While this amendment was defeated, debates over education boards’ roles continue across the U.S. As of 2022, 25 states provided for education boards in their constitutions, while 24 states relied on statutory boards.
So West Virginia is not alone in wrestling with the right balance of powers between appointed boards and elected legislatures on education policymaking. The results of Amendment 4 will likely influence how other states approach related reforms.
Path to the Ballot
Amendment 4 was placed on the ballot after passing both chambers of the WV legislature with two-thirds supermajorities. This met the constitutional requirements to refer a proposed amendment to voters.
Republicans, who held majorities in both chambers, largely supported the measure, while most Democrats were opposed. This followed partisan lines around education policy debates in the state.
While Amendment 4 did not pass, the debate surrounding it exemplified larger tensions at play. Policymakers continue to balance interests like expertise on education boards and democratic accountability of legislators.
West Virginia will likely see renewed efforts to reform education governance after this closely watched amendment. The state’s next moves could provide lessons for other states grappling with similar issues.
What was West Virginia Amendment 4?
Amendment 4 would have required the State Board of Education to submit rules and policies to the legislature for approval, amendment, or rejection. It was an attempt to increase legislative oversight over education policymaking.
How are members of the WV Board of Education selected?
The Governor appoints members, who are confirmed by the state Senate, to serve nine-year terms. No more than five members can come from the same political party.
What were the main arguments around Amendment 4?
Supporters argued it increased accountability and oversight. Opponents said it injected politics into education and disrupted consistent policies.
What was the result of the vote on Amendment 4?
The amendment was defeated at the ballot, with only 42% of voters supporting it. This kept the Board’s authority intact.
How did Amendment 4 get on the ballot?
It passed the WV legislature with two-thirds majorities in both chambers, meeting the constitutional requirements to refer a proposed amendment to voters.