By: Ryan Quinn, Charleston Gazette-Mail
The West Virginia Board of Education voted Wednesday to recommend state lawmakers provide more money to maintain buildings, purchase supplies, offer vocational education, address students’ mental health and give alternative education to students with discipline issues.
The state school board, in a voice vote with no nays heard, also suggested increasing pay for school employees and resurrecting incentives for them not to use their leave days, which, when used, increase expenses on substitute teachers.
The board didn’t specify how much more funding should be added in each area.
The board’s School Finance and Funding Committee, which approved forwarding these broad recommendations to the board last month, noted that teachers hired after 2010 have less incentive not to use these days, since they cannot “bank” them for increased pension benefits or Public Employees Insurance Agency health insurance coverage when they retire.
Board Financial Officer Tom Campbell, who led the funding committee, did note that adding $100 to the current annual $200 provided for each professional educator for supplies (faculty senates currently get to allocate $100 of each $200) would increase that yearly cost by $2 million.
“Not a big cost in legislative or state budget terms, but for the teachers I’ve talked to this is a critical need, this is a struggle,” Campbell said.
The recommendations now head to the Legislature, which begins its next regular session Jan. 9. Lawmakers can amend the state school aid funding formula, which is the largest determinant of how much money goes to county public school systems.
The formula is mostly based on how many public school students a county has, and how much money the state must add to what a county can raise through its regular levy property taxes in order for those students to get what the state considers an adequate education.
What the state is currently providing isn’t enough, the state board contends.
Campbell said he understands if it takes lawmakers years to address these recommendations, noting the issues have accrued over time.
“We’re trying to prioritize the needs that we heard from the school district level and provide that input to Legislature,” he said.
The written recommendation for more money to address mental health also suggests addressing physical health. It mentions increasing funding to hire more psychologists, mental health counselors, guidance counselors, social workers, nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists, among possibly others.
Board President Dave Perry said more alternative education funding could pay for things like in-school suspensions, instead of out-of-school ones.