WV Gov. Justice announces plans to create 4-year college commission
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The office of Gov. Jim Justice, in a news release distributed after 5 p.m. Thursday, announced Justice is creating a commission to study ways West Virginia “can create a more efficient and meaningful” higher education system.
The release said Justice is expected to sign an executive order by Monday to officially create the “Blue Ribbon Commission on Four-Year Higher Education,” but the release also references that the governor has already asked the commission to do something. The release didn’t state who will be, or already is, on the commission.
Governor’s Office officials, whom the Gazette-Mail contacted earlier Thursday afternoon with a request to talk to them about the office’s rumored higher education reorganization plans, didn’t provide any information beyond Assistant Legal Counsel Jordan Damron emailing the newspaper a copy of the news release at 5:24 p.m.
The Gazette-Mail is awaiting responses to follow-up questions.
“The commission will be tasked with finding bold and unique solutions to a problem that West Virginia has faced for several decades,” the release said, without specifying what the problem is.
The release said Justice has already asked the commission “to give regular updates and reports and has mandated the work be completed by the December 2018 interim meetings of the West Virginia Legislature.”
The next regular legislative session starts the following month.
“Our West Virginia colleges and universities are so critical to our communities, and the continued erosion of their stability deeply concerns me,” Justice said in the release. “My hope is that every possible solution will be considered and evaluated, all colleges and universities will be consulted, and that the Commission will find the right solution for our higher education system in West Virginia.”
Justice went on to say that “Just as my philosophy has been in opposition to K-12 school consolidation, our colleges and universities need an advocate to stand up for their continued stability and to recognize their critical importance to West Virginia communities. These colleges and universities are a lifeline for the students they serve and represent the future of West Virginia. We must find a more efficient means of ensuring that these colleges and universities stay in the communities they serve today.”
The governor doesn’t have direct power to decide which schools close, stay open or change their students’ grade levels. The state Board of Education can reject closures and consolidations that county boards of education propose.
Five of the current members of the nine-person state school board were appointed by Justice. Though some of the names have changed, Justice appointees have been the majority on the board for each of its votes on consolidation.
Counting just school facilities to be completely closed, the state school board has approved closing 16 schools since Justice took office, and only rejected plans to close a school once.
Reach Ryan Quinn at email@example.com, facebook.com/ryanedwinquinn, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.