LEGISLATIVE WRAP-UP

by Jeanne Moore

WVAEA / WVMEA Legislative Liaison

1999 was NOT the year for the arts in the West Virginia Legislature. The WVAEA and the WVMEA adopted a simple legislative position for 1999:

To foster excellence in arts education for all West Virginia students by

  1. assuring that ALL counties provide services of art and music specialists for elementary schools, and
  2. raising the foundation allowances currently specified in the state funding formula.
This position was endorsed by the WVPTA, the West Virginia Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals, and the WVEA. Arts educators are grateful to these organizations for encouragement and continuing assistance. Legislation dealing with both arts issues was introduced in th House of Delegates late in the Session, but died in the Education Committee.

The only actions taken by the 1999 Legislature that will affect arts education were the passage of SB 588 prohibiting hazing by public-school sponsored organizations, and passage of HB 2855 repealing the requirement of electronic portfolios and providing that implementation of career clusters and majors must not cause elimination or replacement of college preparatory curricula.

Legislators have gone back to their home districts. There they will have opportunities to meet local art and music teachers, to participate in school events, and to become well informed about the values and content of arts instruction. Arts educators need to inform their legislators about music teachers in the elementary grades. Public elementary schools in 42 counties do have trained visual arts specialists, but Braxton, Doddridge, Gilmer, Hampshire, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, Pleasants, Raleigh, Ritchie, Summers, Tyler, and Wirt counties do not. There are more than 26,000 elementary students in the counties that lack the services of specialist teachers. The situation becomes more critical every year. It is a situation that only legislative action can remedy. Arts educators and parents are the key to informing the legislature of the needs of West Virginia's students.