Legislators expressed mixed feelings about the state Board of Education's response to a highly publicized education efficiency audit but agree it is a starting point for change.
President Wade Linger presented the board's response to the audit at a legislative committee meeting on Tuesday. Released in January by nonprofit Public Works, the audit made more than 50 recommendations for making the school system more efficient and cost-effective.
The board released its own response to the audit last week. After spending months on the document, Linger said he thought it was a bold step from the board.
Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, disagreed.
"I think it needs more specificity, in terms of specific things that are needed," said Plymale, chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
"Let's be specific on these things. If we're willing to go ahead and make these bold moves, let's do it once. Let's do it well-articulated by studying the things that we looked at and do it only one time," he continued.
Plymale called the board's stance on a balanced, or year-round, school calendar "weak" and wanted more specific direction as to what code changes the board thought the Legislature should address.
Delegates Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, and Brian Savilla, R-Putnam, both mentioned portions of the audit that discussed the number of people working in the Department of Education and the number of regulations concerning education in the state.
Armstead asked if the board was looking at reducing the size of the department staff and the number of regulations. Savilla questioned the need for the department at all.
After the meeting, Linger said he was a little surprised by Savilla's question.
In addressing Armstead and in comments after the meeting, he said he thought the board was working to restructure the department but it was the Legislature's responsibility to address regulations.
He also mentioned that 30 positions in the department are vacant. When asked by the committee, Superintendent Chuck Heinlein could not say how many were federally funded and faced elimination anyway.
Legislators did not vote to approve or accept the report, but Linger and others said the discussion was a good starting point for change. Linger said he thought the idea of being more specific and bold "was music to my ears," and he took the statement as a mandate to lead.