The cost of salaries and benefits for those positions will be $1.6 million a year.
The department is saving $1.1 million by not filling the remaining 12 positions, department spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro confirmed.
"But repurposing is not just about downsizing. It's also about changing the culture," Phares told lawmakers Tuesday.
The 16 positions to be shifted will be filled by employees who will coordinate professional development for the RESAs, Cordeiro said. This was a key recommendation in the audit.
Phares previously has spoken about moving the training to the regional agencies but Tuesday said he wanted to incorporate a partnership with the Center for Professional Development into that training.
Judy Hale, head of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, has consistently said teachers would prefer professional development from the center. Phares' comments made her a little more optimistic about RESA training, but she still maintains the move merely shifts bureaucracy rather than eliminating it.
Phares is optimistic the move will provide a little more flexibility in each area being able to come up with the programming that is right for them. It's part of a support structure the department wants to provide for teachers and administrators, who far too often take the brunt of the blame when people ask questions about student achievement.
While Phares pointed to outside factors - poverty, drug addiction, abuse - that can affect a child's ability to learn, Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, said teacher bashing and holding teachers accountable are two different things.
"So many of our children are poor. So many of our children come to school hungry," Wells said. "We realize that. But let's not use that necessarily as an excuse to cover up all of the other problems we are facing."
Phares acknowledged that changes are needed and promised to continue pursuing a different approach regardless of the legislative session outcome.
Phares, Wells and others expressed the belief that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will push education reform this session. He will deliver his State of the State address at 7 p.m. today.