AT last week's state Board of Education meeting, board members, who oversee a heavily centralized education bureaucracy that over-regulates county public school systems, voted to give more autonomy to local school boards regarding the school calendar.
These are baby steps, but movement in the right direction.
The board made revisions to its policy to offer local school boards more flexibility as they plan their school calendar in response to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education reform bill passed during the 2013 legislative session.
Tomblin's bill aimed for limited reforms based on the 2012 education efficiency audit. That audit said the state school system is one of the most highly regulated among the 50 states and made recommendations for millions in savings, as well as better outcomes for students.
The county school districts will now have a 38-week window within which to plan their calendar,
instead of the current 34-week model. Not only will counties have more local control, they'll also be held more accountable for seeing that students get a full 180 days of instruction, as required by state law.
Each county will adopt its own policy after local hearings on the issue.
That's great, but it still just scratches the surface of the changes needed to make our state's school systems more accountable, efficient, effective and local.
The state board, Gov. Tomblin and the legislature need to take heed of the words of Mercer County Board of Education President Greg Prudich after the legislature completed work on the governor's very limited reform bill in 2013.
"I think it's inaccurate to say the county boards were given a lot more control," Prudich told Daily Mail Education Reporter Shay Maunz in March. "We're talking about the state board and the Department of Education going through their regulations and their policies and ending the micromanagement of the classroom . . . as local board members we are all holding our breath and hoping we'd see a lot more in terms of freeing us up."
Plaudits to the state school board members, the governor and the Legislature for the baby steps. Now, how about sprinting toward the goal of more effective, more efficient and better schools free from state over-regulation.