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State school superintendent says may be time to change aid formula

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State school superintendent says may be time to change aid formula
Jeff Jenkins, MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State School Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano said Tuesday on MetroNews ‘Talkline’ that he’s taking an audit of the state School Aid Formula seriously but he doesn’t believe the department did anything wrong.

A legislative audit released Sunday said allocations to school districts were miscalculated from 2009-2015 and some counties received millions more than they were supposed to while other counties received millions less.

Martirano and his financial staff have been reviewing the audit since last week.

“I don’t think it’s an issue of who’s right and wrong. It’s a matter of how that is interpreted based upon the law and we’ve done that through a level of compliance through the last five years,” Martirano said.

The state Department of Education fully plans to comply with the audit, Martirano said, but added he’s concerned about how to move forward.

“I do not believe that we made a mistake, but our review is in its early infancy,” he said. “Moving forward I want to make sure things are done in a clear manner.”

The calculation of state funds to be allocated to school systems in all 55 counties is a complicated process. Probably too complicated, Martirano said.

“I would advocate for a more distilled, clearer process of how taxpayer dollars are allocated for the educational process. So that we can track that to a formula that’s fair and equitable taking into account the various needs that each one of our counties present to us,” Martirano said.

The audit report said the state Department of Education made more than $73 million in allocation errors during the time in question.

“The errors included 36 counties being underfunded approximately $51.7 million and 19 counties being overfunded approximately $21.6 million,” the audit reported.

There are no plans right now to take money away from some counties and give it to others, Martirano said.

“We don’t have those additional dollars to provide that reconciliation right now,” he said. “But if it were the will the legislature to make that I would make the necessary adjustments in our budget to remedy that.”

The audit report may open communication on how to make the School Aid Formula more understandable, Martirano said.

“There are opportunities for discussion with the legislature, with the state Board of Education, of how we look at this very cumbersome state aid formula and what needs to be done to adjust it for modern day, for 2015 and forward for our state,” Martirano said.