West Virginia House committee quickly recommends assistant teacher bill

A bill sponsored by House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, left, to provide assistant teachers to first and second grade classrooms made it through the House Education Committee on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of WV Legislative Photography)

CHARLESTON — A bill championed by House Speaker Roger Hanshaw at the start of the 2022 legislative session to provide additional assistant teachers to some elementary school educators was quickly discussed and adopted Wednesday.

The House Education Committee recommended for passage Wednesday afternoon House Bill 4467, requiring early childhood classroom assistant teachers in certain grade levels and enrollment levels. The bill now heads to the House Finance Committee.

HB 4467 would require assistant teachers in first and second grade classrooms that have more than 12 pupils. State code already requires assistant teacher in pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten programs. The bill gives assistant teachers the same authority as teachers over students in a classroom.

The bill also increases the funding ratio in the School Aid Formula of the number of personnel positions that a county gets to 7.9 positions based on 1,000 students in net enrollment. A fiscal note was unavailable for the bill Wednesday, though counsel for the committee estimated the cost could come to $68 million for the state for both grades and $34.7 million if lawmakers choose to only provide assistant teachers in first grade.

Speaking the weekend before the start of the legislative session at the West Virginia Press Association’s annual Legislative Lookahead, Hanshaw, R-Clay, said adding teaching assistants would help teachers work with students one-on-one.

“A personal priority for me this legislative session is making sure that we’re helping young students and our youngest kids we have in the public school system — our first and second graders,” Hanshaw said last month.

“The data shows that if a kid finishes third grade and can’t read at grade level, the chances of that student ever reading at grade level in his or her lifetime is a single digit percentage number.

“That’s sad, because this Legislature and the people of West Virginia have invested heavily in public education over the course of the past several years,” Hanshaw continued. “We’ve largely focused those efforts on our secondary schools in grades 9-12 education … One of the things that we perhaps can do better is make sure that on the other end of that continuum, as students are just in entering the public schools, that we’re preparing them as well as we possibly can to reap the benefits of the other investment that we’ve made.”

The bill was recommended by the committee by voice vote. House Education Committee Minority Vice Chairman Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, expressed his support for the bill Wednesday. A classroom teacher, Thompson said the bill would provide much needed support for teachers in early childhood education.

“This is a very good bill,” Thompson said. “This is something I think is going to have a very lasting impact, because those younger ages — those younger years when you’re in elementary school — are where you build your foundation for education. Having an extra set of hands in there, and extra set of eyes, will make sure that our little ones are getting the best education possible.”

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com


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