Nearly 70 percent of West Virginia’s 55 county-wide school districts saw lower student enrollments during the past four years, and that means tough cuts for schools.
An analysis by The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register found 37 of the state’s 55 counties lost students from 2008 through 2012, and those losses translate into less funding. The article suggests the losses are tied to the state’s weak economy and lack of jobs.
West Virginia had been one of the most aggressive states to pursue rural school consolidation, closing more than 300 schools between 1990 and 2002. As a result, its rural schools and districts cover bigger geographic areas and enroll more students, and its school bus transportation costs are among the highest in the country, according to the rural education advocacy group, the Rural School and Community Trust. More than half of the state’s schools are rural, compared to the national average of 33 percent.
In West Virginia, some school districts are considering further consolidation as a solution to the loss of money, while others have cut staff or course offerings. One superintendent is quoted as saying the decline has been happening for decades.
“Obviously, state funding comes in with students and when you lose students, you lose funding and it hurts everybody,” said Hancock County Superintendent Suzan Smith in the story. “What you try to do is the least amount of interruption to instructional time, so as a result, other programs get cut.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.