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Education: West Virginia should examine school funding model

When members of the West Virginia Board of Education voted last week to approve Wood County Schools’ plan, which includes closure of three elementary schools in spring 2020, they did so in a manner that suggested they understood the difference between emotions and fiscal reality. In fact, more than one of them indicated they wished they never had to make decisions on the closure of ANY school — but that is not possible, given changes in our counties’ populations and the financial struggle almost all of them face.

Good for them, for doing, as board member Debra Sullivan put it, “what is the necessary thing,” even if it did not feel like “the right thing.”

Wood County Board of Education members already had to make that decision — partly because none before them had mustered the courage to make smaller changes and better decisions that might have made a difference.

It is important to note the words of board member Thomas Campbell, who said “If you don’t have the money, you need to do what you need to do.”

He is right, but his words came at the end of a critique of the state’s funding model, which Campbell said does not reflect social and economic changes over the past 50 years.

“It is based, in my opinion, on a society that no longer exists,” he said. “If there is not a change in funding, we’re going to see every county in here every year.”

Though Wood County’s plan may face a lawsuit or two, it is clear to all other objective observers that the upcoming closures and some planned for the future are necessary and must not be delayed. In the meantime, however, Campbell may be right that his former colleagues in the state legislature should take another look at the funding model. Counties should not be the only entities doing the heavy lifting as we all keep trying to do what is best for the education of our children.

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