Consultants who took an intensive look at reform in West Virginia public schools have concluded, in a way, that there are too many reformers. In other words, the state is top-heavy with education officials who use resources that could be redirected to teaching children.
A look at the state Department of Education's organizational chart is eye-opening. In addition to state school Superintendent Jorea Marple, the DOE has four assistant superintendents, 19 executive directors, 29 assistant directors and five liaisons directors.
Analysts with the Pennsylvania-based consultant, Public Works, found the DOE has a total of 637 employees. Of that, about half work at the Schools for the Deaf and Blind, the Cedar Lakes Conference Center and other departments not directly related to regulating public schools.
Still, the DOE has 319 employees working with public schools to ensure they comply with all state and federal rules - and policies promulgated by the DOE itself.
West Virginia is top-heavy with state education officials, according to Public Works. Just one other state, Alaska, has a lower ratio of state school officials to students in public schools, according to the consultant.
Employees at the DOE handle schools with a total enrollment of 283,000 students. Meanwhile, Ohio, with more than 1.8 million students, has just 582 state department of education employees. Pennsylvania, with nearly 1.8 million students, has 483 state school officials and employees.
There would be less room for criticism of top-heavy school management if West Virginia schools were improving. In general, they are not. Graduation rates, standardized test scores and other measures of education quality have remained flat for several years - even growing worse in some cases.
Reducing the public education bureaucracy in Charleston would give West Virginia more money to put into classrooms, the consultant concluded. Don't expect the DOE to buy wholly into that idea.
But if such reform is left up to legislators, they should not hesitate to make such a change.