W.Va. state school board seeks spending flexibility

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The Associated Press 

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Board of Education says county school districts should have more control over how their state funding is spent.

A decades-old funding formula determines how much state funding each county system gets annually and how this funding is spent.

Last week, the state board voted to ask the Legislature to consider allowing counties to use up to 10 percent of their state school funding however they choose, the Charleston Gazette reported.

“The idea is not to throw the formula out. The idea is to use the formula to use the money more efficiently,” said board member Tom Campbell, who heads the Department of Education’s Commission on Budget Flexibility, a workgroup created in response to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s education reform bill last year.

Board member Lloyd Jackson said he is concerned that the proposal could lead to fewer teachers, or more administrators than teachers.

“If a county has 100 employees, 10 percent is 10 people. That’s a huge amount of people to come out of the classroom, and that’s where they’re going to come from,” Jackson said. “I can see huge opposition to taking the money (designated for school staff) out.

“I think it’s a noble thing to do. I think the devil’s in the details, though,” Jackson said. “As you all know, this formula has been so finely tuned through the years. This would be considered an incredibly major change (by the Legislature), to allow that to happen.”

If the changes were approved, Campbell said the Department of Education would oversee counties’ requests for reallocation of funding. He also said the recommended 10 percent figure could change.

Board member Bill White said he supported the proposal, which he called “quite bold.”

“To be quite honest with you, you are going to get some pushback,” White said. “I support what’s happening here. I think it’s great. But even in corporate America, that’s one of those issues we deal with — how people deal with people when it comes to funding, and a lot of times, they become top-heavy.”

Campbell said he and his committee are aware of possible pushback.