West Virginia Legislators Focus on Education and the Economy

November 20, 2019

Charleston, W.Va. –  A record number of West Virginia legislators convened today for the fourth annual West Virginia Legislators’ Forum on Education and the Economy 2019: Connecting Education & the Future Workplace in Charleston.

The event, co-hosted by the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative (WVPEC) and The Hunt Institute, brought together legislative leaders to discuss the most pressing issues in education, including empowering local educators, teacher preparation, early childhood education, innovative school practices and entrepreneurship and higher education attainment.

“This Forum is a great opportunity to highlight West Virginia’s successes in education, but it also provides an important platform to better understand the challenges our students face so we can ensure they have the necessary resources and skillsets to succeed in college and future career paths,” said WVPEC Chair Gayle Conelly Manchin. “It’s so important to hear from a diverse group of national and state experts who can share best practices, policy and new education models with our legislators. We thank The Hunt Institute for their partnership this year, and are truly grateful to our legislators for making the time to discuss how we can achieve greater educational outcomes for West Virginia educators and students now and in the future.”

The Forum began Tuesday evening with University presidents from East Tennessee State University, Marshall University, Pierpont Community and Technical College and West Virginia University who discussed the evolving landscape of higher education.

Legislators returned Wednesday for a full day of policy discussions with some of the state’s top education leaders and national policy experts. Legislators also met with local teachers and students from Kanawha County during lunch to hear their needs firsthand, building those relationships at the ground level.

“When policymakers take the lead on education, especially in a nonpartisan approach, they can learn from nationwide best practices and craft solutions to improve outcomes for all students,” said The Hunt Institute President & CEO Dr. Javaid Siddiqi.

The Forum closed with a panel of legislative leaders who reflected on the lessons learned from discussions at the Forum, highlighted the education omnibus bill that the legislature passed earlier this year and shared their education policy priorities for the upcoming legislative session. Tom Heywood, managing partner at Bowles Rice, moderated the discussion with Senate President Mitch Carmichael, Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw, Delegate Joe Ellington, chair of the Education Committee and Sen. Robert Plymale, who is a member of the Education Committee.

Other experts participating in the Forum included:

  • Janet Bock-Hager, Coordinator off the Office of Early & Elementary Learning, West Virginia Department of Education
  • Jim Denova, Vice President, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation
  • Teresa Eagle, Dean of the College of Education, Marshall University
  • Ben Eng, Co-Founding Director, Innovating for Impact Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation, Marshall University
  • Barbara Gebhard, Assistant Director of Public Policy, Zero to Three
  • Lisa M. Ertl, Interim Director, Division of Early Care and Education, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
  • Stephanie Lorenze, Program Coordinator of the Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education Program, West Virginia University
  • Gayle Manchin, chair, West Virginia Public Education Collaborative
  • Jennifer Penland, Director of the School of Education, Shephard University
  • Trace Pickering, Executive Director, Iowa BIG School (XQ Super School)
  • Javier Reyes, Dean, John Chambers College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University
  • Scott Rotruck, Member, West Virginia Board of Education
  • Ryan Saunders, Policy Advisory, Learning Policy Institute
  • Siri Smillie, Director of Policy, Education Commission of the States
  • Tara St. Clair, Senior Program Manager, Encova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, West Virginia University
  • Jaime R. Taylor, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Marshall University
  • Sarah Tucker, Chancellor for Community and Technical College Education, West Virginia Community & Technical College System
  • Russ Wigginton, Chief Postsecondary Impact Officer, State Collaborative on Reforming Education
  • Jason Willis, Director of Strategy and Performance, WestEd


About the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative
The West Virginia Public Education Collaborative (WVPEC) is a nonpartisan collaborative of diverse state and national leaders committed to championing public schools in West Virginia from early childhood into college or career training. By engaging key local stakeholders and national experts through outreach and innovative initiatives, WVPEC partner-members aim to identify West Virginia schools’ most pressing educational needs, remove barriers to student success and positively impact the educational system and economy of the state. The collaborative is headquartered in West Virginia University’s Office of the Provost to ensure a neutral viewpoint and cross-disciplinary collaboration to facilitate flexibility. For more information, please visit: wvpec.wvu.edu.

About The Hunt Institute
An affiliate of the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy, The Hunt Institute is a recognized leader in the movement to transform public education. Marshaling expertise from a nationwide partner network since it was established in 2001, The Institute brings together people and resources that help build and nurture visionary leadership and mobilize strategic action for greater educational outcomes and student success. For more information, please visit: http://www.hunt-institute.org/


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