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West Virginia: Epic Mandate, Historic Conflict

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Charleston WVa--Lowell Johnson points to a two-inch thick stack of papers on the corner of his desk.

The so-called "criteria of excellence," which the West Virginia Department of Education has developed as part of an effort to raise standards in the state's 55 county school systems, is one of the few tangible results so far of the most sweeping judicial mandates for school reform in the nation's recent history.

Yet, as Mr. Johnson says, "there isn't a country in the state that can meet" the criteria, due in part to the state's failure to act on other court-ordered reforms, including an overhaul of its school-finance system.

"It's three years and nothing has happened except a proliferation of these policies," says Mr. Johnson, who until recently was president of the state's largest teachers' union, the West Virginia Education Association. "How long can the courts sit aside and see this thing not implemented?"

In his Washington office, the former West Virginia governor, John D. (Jay) Rockefeller 4th, who is now a U. S. senator agrees with Mr. Johnson.

"What's happened so far is nothing in proportion to what's called for," says the convert to court-ordered school reform. "You understand the tension. The courts are going to have to come back. That will escalate this to a new level."

At the state capitol, Arch Moore, recently sworn in for an unprecedented third term as governor, says he will decide what's best for education in West Virginia, not "some circuit court judge."

The courts are "irrelevant to a Moore administration's approach to education," he says. And then, taking a swipe at his old foe, Mr. Rockefeller, the Governor adds: "We've had the Recht decision for some time, and nobody else moved with all deliberate speed."

In a coffee shop adjacent to his law practice downtown, Lyle Sattes, chairman of the state legislature's House Education Committee, says lawmakers will act if the courts just give them more time. "The understanding is there and the votes are there," he says. "More heat is not what is needed in this state."

Finally, there is Judge Jerry W. Cook of the 25th Circuit, who says he is prepared, before the year is out, to halt the collection of excess property-tax levies, bankrupting the school systems that depend on the levies to pay salaries and purchase textbooks, and thereby forcing the legislature and the Governor to implement court-ordered school-finance reforms.

"I don't give a damn what the Governor thinks, and I don't give a damn what the legislature thinks," the judge says.

It has been three years and one month since Ohio County Circuit Judge Arthur M. Recht ruled that the West Virginia school system, and the method of financing that system, violated the state constitution.

The Decision

The judge's monumental 244-page opinion, in which he measured the schools against an elaborate--some say utopian--set of standards, included a scathing indictment of those responsible for running and providing for West Virginia's public schools, and called on the state legislature to do "no less than ... completely reconstruct the entire system of education" in the state.

The decision was, to say the least, not well received, in part because it was widely assumed that Judge Recht intended to hold the state to the standards set out in the opinion--such as the number of square feet per child in a classroom, minutes of instructional time, class size, materials, personnel, and facilities.

It did not help much that the state tax commissioner at the time, who was rebuked in the decision for failing to monitor and update property appraisals, estimated that implementing the decision would cause property taxes to rise by 500 percent; nor that only months earlier, in a separate case, another judge had ruled that all property in the state would have to be reassessed for purposes of taxation at 100 percent of "true and actual" value.

In addition, the decision "hit at the worst possible time," according to Roy Truby, the state superintendent of schools. "West Virginia was in the middle of a depresssion--20 percent of the people were unemployed, and here comes this judge saying the state is going to have to do all these things."

"It was advertised across the state as if the judge had gone crazy,'' says Kate Long, an expert witness at the trial. "People were calling him a villain and a crazy man from one end of the state to the other."

"West Virginia taxpayers will replace the entire judiciary and the legislature before Rechtism is reality," intoned the Martinsburg Weekend Journal.

"It is idiotic. It is insane," the Charleston Daily Mail added.

"He did a heck of job of letting people know what the problems were," says a still-angered Charles D. Wagoner, former president of the state board of education, which is constitutionally charged with setting educational policy in the state. The decision, Mr. Wagoner adds, "made West Virginians look like dumbheads."

It also created a political crisis for Governor Rockefeller, then eyeing a seat in the U.S. Senate--forcing him to choose between his liberal, pro-education image and fiscal restraint.

Now Institutionalized

Today, the court's decision in Pauley v. Bailey has been institutionalized--some say co-opted--in the form of a statewide Master Plan for education that spells out curriculum and instructional practices down to the most minute detail, but is much less specific than the judge's order with regard to financing.

The Master Plan, which has been integrated into the court order, creates standards in 50 curriculum areas from kindergarten to adult education, and calls for the phased-in hiring of 5,000 new teachers and staff members and a general expansion of school services, including counseling and health care.

Already, parts of the plan that address higher standards have been implemented, a fact that Mr. Truby, the state chief, cites when he says the Recht decision has achieved "credibility" in the state.

But even Mr. Truby concedes that, with the exception of $29 million in salary equalization, the only reforms the state has implemented so far are those that have not cost it a dime. And in many instances, those reforms are ones that the department of education was working on before Judge Recht's decision, and which he never mentioned.

The state's school-finance system, although ruled unconstitutional, remains intact, and many of the inequities and inadequacies of the school system identified by Judge Recht persist.

State spending on precollegiate education has risen by about $100 million since 1981-82--but as a percentage of total general revenues, it has declined.

$1.2 Billion

A measure of how far West Virginia has to go to fully implement the Master Plan is the department of education's estimate that it would cost the state $1.2 billion--nearly as much as the entire state budget. Included is more than $700 million in one-time expenditures for facilities.

"It costs too much," says Deputy State Superintendent Tom McNeel, sounding a familiar theme. "We may never be able to do the whole thing."

The legislature has made one serious attempt to alter the finance system to provide some of the funds needed to implement the more costly of the court-ordered reforms. But that effort failed when the voters turned down Constitutional Amendment 4 on the November 1984 Presidential ballot.

The amendment would have created a statewide excess levy--equal-izing the excess funds that counties raise above regular property-tax levies for schools--and it would have raised about $600 million for school construction.

The court-ordered reappraisal of property values handed the state a second opportunity to raise revenues for the schools, but so far officials have ducked it.

The first phase of the 10-year reassessment program was supposed to go into effect this year but was delayed for at least a year when the legislature failed to approve the enabling legislation. According to Mr. Sattes, the reappraisals came in much higher than the legislature had projected, creating fears of a taxpayer revolt.

"We're talking about the long pull," he said. "One year or two won't make that much difference. There's a great concern that everybody jump on board the same thing so no one gets hung on it."

Similar fears led the legislature and the voters to agree in 1982 to a constitutional amendment limiting assessments to a flat 60 percent of appraised value--instead of 100 percent, as the courts had ordered.

Mr. Rockefeller, who was then the governor, proposed the 60-percent limit. "One hundred percent would have been wrong for West Virginia," he says, likening the increase to a "pre-emptive strike on property taxes."

But according to Si Galperin, former chairman of the Senate Education Committee, "Had the legislature really wanted to provide the money [to implement the Recht decision], there was the opportunity."

Two Tracks

Thus far, it appears, implementation of the Master Plan is proceeding down two diverging tracks. On one, state education officials develop standards and pass them on to the counties. On the other, the voters and their elected representatives decline to provide the resources for the personnel, supplies, equipment, and facilities that Judge Recht ruled were indispensable to a constitutionally sound school system.

As Mr. Truby points out, the Recht decision created "unrealistic expectations about funding. Once it passed, the feeling was 'now we're going to get all the money we need."'

Instead, the intrusion of the courts into an arena traditionally dominated by the governor, the legislature, and the county school districts has set off a power struggle that threatens to swallow up any reforms that involve the commitment of additional resources.

"Is my real mandate to read Judge Recht's decision and see what to do?" Mr. Sattes asks. "I think the ultimate responsibility is mine. ... I think generally the legislature favors education reform. But the whole thing is mixed up with every individual's philosophy about separation of powers."

"Obviously, you have the classic dilemma of the court telling the legislature what to do, and the legislature not doing it," says Daniel Taylor, former state superintendent of schools and now senior vice president of the College Board.

As a result, "the thing is really sort of hanging," says William G. Monahan, former dean of the college of education at the University of West Virginia.

Pauley v. Kelley

In November of 1979, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a lower court's dismissal of a suit brought by a Lincoln County parent, Janet Pauley, against the state board of education, the state superintendent of3schools, local school officials, and State Treasurer John H. Kelly, among others.

Mrs. Pauley had contended that her children were being deprived of the "thorough and efficient" education guaranteed them by Article XII of the state constitution, for no other reason than they had the misfortune of being born and raised in Lincoln County, one of the state's poorest and most politicized rural counties. The state's school-finance system was to blame, Mrs. Pauley charged, for failing to equalize spending among districts.

The high court declined to rule on the issue, leaving that to the trial court on remand. It also left it to the trial court to determine the essential characteristics of a thorough and efficient education, against which the Lincoln County schools might be measured.

But the high court provided direction, stating, "We would frankly be surprised if the school system meets any thorough and efficient standard that may be developed on the remand."

And in a key passage, it set the guidelines for the trial court's inquiry, defining a thorough and efficient education as one that "develops, as best the state of education expertise allows, the minds, bodies, and social morality of its charges to prepare them for useful and happy occupations, recreation, and citizenship, and does so economically."

It also listed eight areas--from literacy and computation to music and theater--that a thorough and efficient education encompasses, and noted that "implicit" in this definition were "good physical facilities, instructional materials, and personnel."

The court further stated that education was a fundamental constitutional right in West Virginia, and that as a result no discriminatory classification in the state's finance sytem could stand unless the state demonstrated a compelling reason for it. The legislature, it concluded, was required by law to "develop a high-quality statewide education system."

Finally, this remarkable, but at the time unheralded, document, written by Justice Sam Harshbarger, held that in West Virginia, education funding was "second in priority only to payment of the state debt, and ahead of every other state function."

The Recht Decision

To determine whether the schools met the thorough and efficient standard as defined by the high court, Judge Recht, who was named to conduct the retrial, took more than 40 days of testimony, mostly from educational experts. Then, based on the evidence, he developed standards--including staffing levels, programs, facilities, and materials and equipment--for 16 subject areas and related school services.

Measured against those standards, Judge Recht concluded that the state's schools in general were in "outrageous" condition. And although he found that some school systems were clearly better than others, not a single one met constitutional muster.

Although many of the standards used to assess the schools seemed to West Virginians impossibly high, the judge also cited numerous instances in which districts failed to measure up even to minimum standards, such as not providing students with textbooks and using buildings that "should be condemned as unfit for occupancy."

Although he chastised the state board of education for failing to develop high-quality standards, Judge Recht held that the "overriding cause" of the schools' failure to pro-vide a thorough and efficient education was "inadequate and inequitable funding."

For that he held the legislature and the state tax commissioner responsible. "It is the legislature that must adopt standards of a high-quality system of education and provide the resources to guarantee that these standards are implemented."

The tax commissioner was faulted for failing to update property appraisals, thus allowing property to escape taxation and appraisals to vary by county.

Formula Found Faulty

Judge Recht also found that the quality of educational programs correlated directly with property wealth--the poorest counties tended to offer the worst programs--and that state aid failed to compensate for disparities between counties, despite an equalization factor that the state added to the formula in 1981. In fact, wealthy counties tended to receive as much state aid, if not more, than poor counties, the judge found.

The failure of the finance formula to equalize resources was, he found, in large part due to the reliance of most counties on excess property-tax levies, which require the approval of 60 percent of the voters. Districts typically use such levies, which can double property-tax proceeds for schools, to supplement salaries and buy equipment and supplies.

But as the judge pointed out, such levies raise more funds in property-wealthy counties, and many of the poorest counties cannot pass the levies. And since the levies are not counted in computing state aid, they are not equalized.

Property-rich counties also tend to have better school facilities, the judge found, because of their greater bonding capacity, which is based on property wealth.

For these and other reasons, Judge Recht ruled that the school-finance system, as well as the education system itself, violated the equal-protection and thorough and efficient clauses of the state constitution. He announced his intention to appoint a special commissioner to see that the court order was implemented.

'Just Disasters'

Few West Virginians, with the exception of those on the state board and at the local level, would quarrel with the main point of Judge Recht's decision--that the state's schools are in poor condition and desperately in need of reform.

"We've got some that are just disasters," says former Justice Harshbarger, defeated last year in a re-election bid and now practicing law in his hometown of Milton.

"I know what we have, and what we have is totally unacceptable," adds state Senator Robert R. Nelson, who for 10 years served as chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

The system "doesn't provide for high quality and it certainly doesn't provide for equality of opportunity," says Thomas McNeel, the assistant state superintendent of schools.

"We ought to have something to work toward because it's right and good, he said."

Traditionally 'Meager'

But just as people say it would take years to implement a thorough reform of the schools, the system itself did not evolve overnight. It reflects the populace's attitude towards education, the power of vested interests in the state, and the limitations of a "one-dimensional" economy, West Virginians say.

The state does rank near the top--eighth nationally--in per capita funding of education. But that is more a measure of its poverty than of its investment in education. "West Virginia has had a very, very meager investment in public education over a long time," says Mr. Taylor, the former state superintendent. ''They've been spending at about two-thirds to three-quarters of the national average for the last 50 years."

And although West Virginia students score at or near the national average on standardized tests, according to Mr. Truby, 45 percent of the adult population has less than a high-school education and the state ranks next to last in the percentage of its students that attend college.

"If I could wave a wand and give West Virginia one thing before I left, it would be higher expectations," says Mr. Truby, who has announced his intention to resign this summer. "If the state had that one thing, the rest would take care of itself."

"People expect too many of their children to drop out of high school," he adds. "They expect too many to go into the coal mines. It's a sad thing. Expectations are so low."

"Sometimes," says Mr. Harshbarger, "I think West Virginia came into being to provide the hewers of wood and the janitors at McDonald's for the rest of the universe."

The Grip of King Coal

Like the schools, the West Virginia economy, long tied to the mining industry, faces a long and difficult adjustment. Yet, without a resurgent economy, the state will be hard-pressed to provide the resources needed for school reform.

Although coal extraction is on the rise, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in bituminous coal mining, the largest component of the industry, has3dropped to record low levels. After peaking at 64,100 in 1976, and declining slowly for four years, employment fell to 52,000 in 1981 and to 41,300 in 1984, the last year for which figures are available.

Total unemployment in the state, which according to federal estimates peaked at 21.5 percent in 1983, has fallen back to 12.5 percent, still nearly twice the national average.

But unemployment figures tell only part of the story of the West Virginia economy. As Mr. Taylor points out, "West Virginia has been dependent on extraction industries for centuries. Wealth has been taken out of the state, not put in it."

One result is that property taxes, the foundation of school finance, are among the lowest in the nation, and that according to a 1980 study of land holdings in the state, homeowners bear a disproportionate share of the burden. Another is that some of the counties richest in mineral wealth are those with the lowest assessment values--and the worst schools.

"Even at the constitutional convention it was recognized that there would be a problem financing schools in this state, the biggest being that the state's wealth--minerals and timber--is owned by outsiders, people whose children will never darken the door of a West Virginia school," says Mr. Harshbarger. "They opposed taxation of their property for anything. They fought it then and they're fighting it to this day."

Equalized but Inequitable

Although the state's school-finance system has been held unconstitutional in part on the grounds that it is inequitable, the system is actually among the most equitable in the nation in terms of per pupil spending per district.

Indeed, there are districts that have benefited significantly from6the equalization funds now distributed through the school-finance formula, which Judge Recht held would "never overcome the inadequate funding faced by many counties" because it fails to take excess levies into account.

"It's been a lifesaver for us," says James Melmige, superintendent of schools in Mingo County, one of the state's poorest and most isolated rural areas. "It's doing some of the things Recht said needed to be done," adds Sam Sentelle, superintendent of schools in Logan County.

Yet, holding one of the nation's most equitable finance systems unconstitutional, while courts in other states have upheld far less equalized systems, points up the great irony of the Recht decision: that such a poor state, with so many poor schools, has been held up to such a high constitutional standard.

"It may be that West Virginia doesn't have enough money to give its children a thorough and efficient education," says Mr. Harshbarger, whose opinion defined the thorough and efficient standard. "It's a disheartening thing. It's just a a sad situation, and it's something the natives don't have the ability to control."

"The schools are just sucked along," he concludes. "I see no hope for them."

'Whatever You Want'

For one brief moment--when Judge Recht handed down his decision--all things seemed possible in education in this state.

"All of sudden, a good fairy comes down with a wand and says, 'Whatever you want, you can have'--that was Recht," says Senator Nelson. "It was all there for the taking."

"I just feel that Recht provided a great opportunity for the state to get off center. ... Had I known it was coming I might have stayed in the legislature to implement it," saysel5lMr. Galperin, who retired after the 1982 legislative session.

At the very least, advocates of school reform thought the decision would force the legislature to face the issue head on. "In the tradition of Pontius Pilate, state legislators have washed their hands of the problem of unequal schools throughout the state," the Charleston Gazette editorialized. "The Recht decision compels them to face the issue. No more washing."

But criticism of the judge's decision came so swiftly and so deafeningly that the opening created by the judge's decision was, in the opinion of many observers, quickly slammed shut. Stung by the criticism, the judge issued a supplemental opinion within 10 days of the original order, denying that he was usurping the legislature's law-making authority and rebutting claims that the decision would cause a massive increase in property taxes.

"This court cannot and does not have the power--authority--or jurisdiction to DEMAND that the West Virginia legislature adopt this particular plan or for that matter any single piece of legislation--to do so would violate the traditional concepts of separation of powers," the judge wrote.

"If I look back to see where the mistake was made by those of us who care about education, it was that we didn't let people know what the lawsuit was about," Ms. Long says. "The people who stood to pay the most were able to take the ball and run with it."

Not 'Practicable or Humane'

In late July, after withholding comment on the court order for more than a month, Governor Rockefeller went on statewide television and ridiculed its excesses, such as heated shower floors and lessons in kayaking. He said he would never raise taxes to implement the decision, de3scribing such increases as "neither practicable, possible, nor frankly, humane."

"I felt I was being told to produce a bill of goods in an instant. I was not prepared to do that," he now says. But he adds that he "probably wouldn't use the same examples" if he had the speech to do over again. "Would I withdraw some of those phrases? Of course I would," he says.

Because of that speech, Mr. Rockefeller "bears a great deal of the blame" for the state's failure to act on the decision, says Ms. Long and others. "He had a chance to calm everything down. He could have said, 'You don't want kids to go to school without books and a place to sit down.' Instead, he focused on the excesses."

"He should have embraced it immediately as a goal to seek instead of attacking it," Mr. Galperin says.

"Rockefeller set the tone," adds Mr. Harshbarger. "Instead of doing what governors were doing all over the country, he took it as outrageous that Arthur Recht had made these findings. I believe it's the worst night I've ever lived, except for the night my father died. I thought, my God, where's our enlightened leadership?"

Defendant or 'Court Master'?

A few weeks prior to Mr. Rockefeller's speech, the state board announced that it would not appeal Judge Recht's ruling to the state supreme court. Mr. Recht, who resigned as a state judge in 1983 and now practices law in his hometown of Wheeling, says he in turn decided not to appoint a special commissioner.

Instead, with the concurrence of the plaintiffs, he allowed the state education department to oversee the development of a master plan to implement the court order.

Some took this as a sign that the judge had begun to weaken, and wondered why the state department, which had been on the losing end of the lawsuit, should be entrusted with implementing the decision.

Mr. Truby admits that it is "almost unheard of" to "be a defendant and then end up as the court master." But in defense of the judge's decision, he says, "Frankly, I think if Judge Recht had not done that there would have been a constitutional crisis in the state. We were very close to a situation where the legislature was trying to impeach judges and judges were trying to jail legislators."

Mr. Recht says that he turned the development of the master plan over to the department "because the judicial branch must presume that each constitutional officer will discharge his oath; the thought was that the state department of education still had a constitutional role."

But according to Mr. Johnson of the wvea, the failure to appoint a court master meant that there was no impartial figure to push the legislature and the governor to implement the court-ordered reforms. While the court retains jurisdiction over the case, its role has been passive.

Allowing the state department to coordinate development of the master plan also assured that the plan would reflect, at least to some extent, the department's own agenda for reform. A committee of 95, including many from outside the department, participated in the formal preparation of the plan, Mr. McNeel, the deputy state superintendent, presided over the committee. Its three subcommittees were headed by assistant state superintendents.

'In-House Operation'

"The whole thing got to be an in-house operation," says Senator Nelson.

According to William G. Monahan, the former education dean at West Virginia University, Mr. Truby also played a key role in the plan's development. "The general consensus is that he wrote a good bit of it. He took it very seriously."

The department has pushed ahead with the first phase of the master plan, which sets standards in areas such as course offerings, school services, and instructional time that most districts can meet without added personnel costs.

The state board has approved the first batch of learning outcomes, developed by the department, which will serve as the foundation for learning in all programs statewide in grades K-12, and it is expected to act on the rest later this year. A staff evaluation policy is out for public comment, as are the criteria of excellence, which will be incorporated in the state's county accreditation program.

Back in Court

Despite the flurry of department activity, the state supreme court ruled last December on a motion brought by the plaintiffs that state board-approved policies regarding the master plan and the accreditation program do not, by themselves, fulfill the department's obligation to develop high-quality standards.

However, in the same ruling, the court refused to establish timelines for the full implementation of the master plan.

As a result of the ruling, the education department developed the criteria of excellence, which it will use as part of the accreditation process to see how districts stack up against the master plan as a whole, according to Mr. Truby.

However, a county's accreditation status will not be affected by how well it meets the criteria. Instead, the education department will use the information to demonstrate the gap between where the districts are and where they need to go, and as a tool to secure increased funding, Mr. Truby said.

The decision to measure counties against the criteria without the outcome affecting their accreditation status does not sit well with all parties.

"If we were really serious about measuring a county against the master plan, we'd measure it against the entire master plan and announce the results," says Bob E. Myers, a member of the state board. "Instead, we have a cover system that allows a county to be accredited as long as the intent is to work sometime in the future to meet the master plan's standards. There might be tremendous differences between counties A and B, but both get accredited. It's a joke."

But Mr. Truby says it makes "no sense" to accredit counties on the basis of criteria that they cannot possibly meet. "Pretty soon the accreditation would be a farce," he says.

'Total Control' Attacked

While the plaintiffs in the Recht case take the position that the education department has not acted fast enough to implement the quality standards in the master plan, superintendents across the state take the opposite view.

Some accuse the department and the state board of taking advantage of the court order to centralize power, undermining local control and suffocating initiative.

"I have the feeling that the educational powers at the state level have used Recht to take total control of the school system," says Robert Lindsay, superintendent of schools in Brooke County. "The state had the wherewithal to gain control and has used it. I spend most of my time just trying to keep up with the bureaucracy they've created."

"An all-state school system is coming down the pike and we're just going to have to live with it," says Grey Cassell, superintendent of schools in Hampshire County. "I would like to see the state board freeze policies for two years and let us catch up."

Some superintendents say the6Recht decision and the implementation of the master plan have sparked greater attention to standards and raised self-awareness. But few say that the decision has benefited them in any tangible way.

"It really hasn't had that much impact because it hasn't been funded," Mr. Cassell says. "It has made us look at ourselves, though, and I think that's good."

Mr. Truby appears sensitive to the district superintendents' concerns. He says one of the tasks of his successor should be to "cut the paperwork by half."

But the resistance of the district superintendents to the state's authority suggests that the department, under Mr. Truby's leadership, has at least gotten their attention. "Part of their success has been the ability of the department to say, 'Look, we're under a court order and we've got to improve quality where we can,"' Mr. Monahan says.

On the other hand, the department's push on standards, combined with a lack of movement on funding, poses real problems for some districts.

"We feel a little frustrated in that we've got the standards but we don't have the resources," says Dwight Dials, superintendent of the Morgan County schools. Mr. Dials says he is concerned that failure to measure up to the state's standards could breed cynicism among the local parents, undermining their support for the schools.

"We may have some schools go on probation not for lack of 'want to' but based on lack of resources," he says. For instance, the standards now in place require districts without elementary guidance programs to provide such programs by next year, requiring an increase in personnel. Yet, because the school-finance formula reimburses districts only for the first 55 professional educators per 1,000 students, districts already at or above that level would not be compensated. Judge Recht called for the state to lift the limit, but it remains in place.

"It's one thing to develop outcomes and have training programs," says Mr. Johnson of the wvea "But you have difficulty teaching if you don't have supplies and equipment."

The Consolidation Debate

Mr. Dials also expresses concern that the strictures of the master plan could "alienate creative individuals" and standardize the educational process, rather than raise standards. "We may be working toward a sameness," he says.

It is a theme seconded by a parents' activist group, the West Virginia Education Project, which hailed the Recht decision but has criticized the implementation of the master plan.

The wvep, which champions parental participation in school decision-making, has been riding a wave of community opposition to consolidation of local schools, apparently stimulated by anticipation of the costs of maintaining small schools in an age of top-down reform.

Beth Spence, who writes for the wvep, sees consolidation as an adjunct of the increasing centralization of power in the education system. ''Consolidation takes the decisions further away from parents," she says. "In smaller communities, parents feel they have some input. With consolidation, they're not as important a person."

Ms. Spence also contends that county boards close schools attended by poor children, who are then shunned in their new schools. They would be better off where they are, she says. "My feeling is you could give kids calculus in small schools."

Mr. Truby concedes that Linda Martin, head of the wvep, was correct in seeing that implementation of the master plan would encourage consolidation. "She was probably right about that," he says. "But the more inefficient ones would have to have been consolidated anyway."

He says the system is not moving towards large, impersonal schools, but argues that consolidated, medium-sized schools may offer opportu-nities to students that might not be available in small, rural schools. And he takes particular exception to the notion that the wvep's opposition to the master plan represents a wider, more general opposition.

"The vast majority of people in West Virginia support the master plan," he says. "There hasn't been any organized group of any sort that has opposed implementation. The obvious problem is funding."

Gubernatorial Opposition

Of more immediate concern for the department of education and the future of reform in West Virginia is the attitude of the new governor, Mr. Moore, who came into office vowing not to be "pushed around" by the judiciary.

The Governor says bluntly that he does not intend to implement the Recht decision. His line-item veto of a second installment of the pay-equity program earlier this year lends credence to that statement.

But he also admits to being "not too familiar" with the master plan, and when asked what he would like to see done to improve education in the state, he says, "We can do anything we want to do in the field of education, if the leadership is willing to commit to it as a highest priority. All these deficiencies will be attacked quite aggressively and with sufficient resources."

Senator Rockefeller, who in the words of Mr. Johnson of the wvea, "came around" to the Recht decision by the end of his term, supporting Amendment 4 and starting the pay-equalization program, says that if Governor Moore "doesn't want to be pushed around by a realistic plan, then he neglects education in West Virginia."

The Recht decision, says Mr. Rockefeller, "is right, useful, important, and has to be followed up on."

Mr. Johnson agrees. "If we ever get the money, there will be a lasting reform in this state, as opposed to a Band-aid approach in other states. We have all the elements for reform in this decision."

Finally, there is former Justice Harshbarger. "Whatever Governor Moore does to improve schools will be implementing the decision. What he's really saying is that he has no intention of doing things in Arthur Recht's name," he says.

"I wish the Governor did not see this as a time to brace the judiciary, to back it up against a wall, so to speak," the judge concludes. "It seems to be the time for cooperation. We need cooperation for the ideas that Arthur Recht codified. It's not a question of telling, it's asking, 'Can't we start doing this?"'

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