West Virginia Board of Education president addresses Mountaineer Breakfast Club

Photo by Michael Erb Tom Campbell, outgoing president of the West Virginia Board of Education, left, addresses the Mountaineer Breakfast Club Friday morning in Parkersburg, including state Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, right, who founded the group.

PARKERSBURG — Tom Campbell, outgoing president of the West Virginia Board of Education, said Friday the state must address bloated and confining education regulations while giving local control of facilities and staffing back to local school districts.

Campbell’s remarks were made Friday morning at Golden Corral during the monthly meeting of the Mountaineer Breakfast Club. The club, formerly known as the Boley Breakfast Club, is a group of residents and elected officials which meets monthly to discuss political and social issues facing West Virginia communities.

The group was originally founded by state Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, who still attends the meetings. Also attending were Delegate John Kelley, R-Wood, District 10, Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, and Rob Cornelius, chairman of the Wood County GOP, as well as about 20 area residents.

Campbell will end his term as board president this month but will continue to serve on the state board. He was appointed to the board in 2014 by then-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, and became board president in 2017. He previously served 16 years in the West Virginia House of Delegates from Greenbrier County, including time as chairman of the House Finance Committee and a member of the House Education Committee.

Campbell said he plans to focus his efforts on reducing the amount of regulation and bureaucracy in West Virginia’s education system. Campbell said the board, in cooperation with the Legislature and Gov. Jim Justice, has had some recent success in those efforts, including the elimination of state Regional Education Service Agency, or RESAs, and the state Office of Education Performance Audits, or OEPA, which Campbell called the “gotcha police” of education.

Even so, he said, the state has much more work to do.

“We still have one of the most regulated education systems in the country, which in turn is one of the most regulated education systems in the world,” he said.

Beginning next week, the state Board of Education will begin reviewing state Policy 6200, which concerns school facilities. Campbell said the “onerous” policy creates a burden of documentation and expense on county school systems, and forces districts to look to consolidation to reduce costs and to receive state facilities funding. That consolidation in turn, Campbell said, increases transportation costs and time and can cause issues for both teachers and students who are dealing with increased class and school sizes.

“To me, we’ve spent a lot of money that hasn’t hit the classroom” because of Policy 6200, he said. “Our goal is to make it much shorter, save the local districts some money and time, and give some basic guidelines” for facilities.

Campbell said he does not oppose consolidation when it is a community-driven decision, but believes the state and its facilities policy forces the school systems to accept consolidation as the only solution.

“We’ve used it as an excuse to cut funding and redirect funding,” he said. “Do we want to put money into buses or into kids?”

Campbell said while public schools are seeing a loss in enrollment, many counties are seeing increased enrollment in private schools or homeschooling.

“To me, public schools need to be a reasonable alternative” to private or homeschooling, he said. “I’d like for people to be able to choose, and right now they are fleeing the public schools.”