CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Board of Education penned its wish list on Thursday for the 2009 West Virginia Legislative Session. At the top of its agenda is a request to repeal a state law dealing with soft drinks in public schools.
“There is a concern among board members that the current language in State Code 18-2-6a conflicts with the board’s policy,” said Board Member Barbara Fish. “We want to respectfully ask the Legislature to look into this issue. We are doing this for all of the right reasons.”
Currently, state law prohibits the sale of healthy beverages (water, 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices, low-fat milk and other juice beverages with a minimum of 20 percent real juice) during breakfast and lunch periods. This law currently conflicts with the rules governing the sale of water and milk through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program as well as state Board of Education policy, which also prohibits the sale of caffeinated beverages, including sodas.
In addition, state code’s definition of a healthy beverage is itself contradictory regarding the percent of real juice: 20 percent versus 100 percent. It defines a healthy beverage as water, 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices, low-fat milk and other juice beverages with a minimum of 20 percent real juice.
The sale of soft drinks at school had been prohibited in West Virginia until 1992, when a new law eased limitations. If State Code 18-2-6a is repealed State Board Policy 4321.1, Standards for School Nutrition, would become the guidance for county schools.
The latest move to limit soda sales comes when one in three children born in West Virginia will likely develop diabetes by the time they grow up. The state is consistently among the top three states for obesity with about a third of its residents considered obese and more considered overweight, according to the state Bureau of Public Health.
Other items included in the board’s 2009 Legislative Agenda include the creation of Innovation Zones. Schools that volunteer to become Innovation Zones serve as demonstration sites for new teaching and curriculum practices. Legislation could give such schools flexibility to operate differently from those in the regular school system.
The board also will ask the Legislature to lift a budget cap from the Regional Education Service Agencies’ (RESAs) budgets. Increased expenses related to retirement and insurance costs, among other items, have put an enormous strain on RESA finances.
Also included in the board’s 2009 Legislative Agenda is a request for the expansion of broadband and support for the use of technology in West Virginia classrooms.
For more information, contact the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.