NEW CUMBERLAND - Delegate Randy Swartzmiller believes West Virginia lawmakers will pass education reform legislation in 2013.
Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, has been named by Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, to the House Education Audit Work Group - a bipartisan, nine-member panel charged with examining the Governor's Education Efficiency Audit released last year and suggesting possible legislation to address issues raised by the audit. Swartzmiller was the only local delegate named to the panel.
"Delegate Swartzmiller has shown an intense interest in his local school system, participating in many school activities - including advocating for a local bond levy - as his two children have moved through the public school system," Thompson said. "In addition, his district is in a border area where school systems struggle to keep teachers from taking jobs in Pennsylvania and Ohio, so he is well versed in the issues our state faces."
Swartzmiller said the Legislature will focus on education when it convenes for its regular 60-day session Feb. 13.
"We're definitely going to see a bill - something passed," he said. "What the face of it will look like, there's no way to tell you yet."
Swartzmiller said the audit addresses important issues and makes suggestions for improvement. It recommends "de-centralizing"decisions about education in the state and allowing local school districts to determine what works best in their classrooms.
"It's a great starting point," Swartzmiller said of the audit. "But as we move forward, the focus has to be on keeping kids first. At the end of the day, we have to have a good product - legislation that moves education forward."
He added West Virginia has done a good job in funding its schools but acknowledged the money isn't always spent in the best way.
"I don't think we're getting the biggest bang for our buck," Swartzmiller said. "We can always do better and find better ways to improve."
He predicts the state budget will be tight this year, and that it is likely teachers won't see a pay raise in 2013.
"Until we see the true numbers, it's too early," Swartzmiller said. "But I think it will be a tough budget year."