Education Funding

W.Va. Finance Lawsuit Moving To Resolution After Decades in Court

By Bess Keller — September 06, 2000 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

West Virginia’s 25-year-old school funding lawsuit has moved closer to resolution, with the parties agreeing to tweak a system that has come a long way—but perhaps not far enough—toward setting the bar for a constitutionally adequate education.

Under a court-ordered agreement reached last month, the state must evaluate and report on individual schools’ specific needs, including facilities, personnel, curriculum, equipment, and materials.

Such resources have been at the heart of the suit since it was brought against the governor and other state officials by several parents of Lincoln County public school students in 1975, and state Circuit Judge Arthur M. Recht ruled in their favor seven years later. The parents charged that their children were receiving an inferior and inadequate education because of the condition of the county’s schools.

Another central issue in the case has been state’s method of paying for schools, but the new agreement does not resolve those funding issues.

The agreement follows a national trend in school finance law toward giving primary consideration to whether school districts do enough to help children meet academic standards, rather than whether the districts in a given state are funded equally.

Daniel F. Hedges, the lawyer who has represented the plaintiffs since 1975, said the agreement was an important step toward making schools better.

“I think it will bring about a monumental change in the evaluation of resources, which has not been done in a meaningful way in the last 10 years,” Mr. Hedges said.

Audits Remain Key

But state education officials foresee little change in their current method of guaranteeing an adequate education, which focuses on audits of district performance.

Under that system, state officials may decide to spend money on additional resources if they are needed to help children learn more and the money cannot be found by improving the management of the district.

“The order is going to put a little more emphasis on resources,” acknowledged William J. Luff, the associate state superintendent of education.

But as for the overall questions of what resources students need for learning, Mr. Luff continued, “the court said that’s going to be judged in the future by current policies,” as well as the 1998 law that established a state office of school performance audits. That office is charged with the evaluation and accreditation of schools, and can recommend a state takeover of a district on the basis of poor student performance or mismanagement. Such a takeover occurred in Lincoln County last spring.

One effect of the Aug. 1 order was to void the detailed master plan for schools that Judge Recht approved in 1983 as part of his decision in the original case. Mr. Hedges reopened the case in 1995, claiming that the state had not followed the plan, even though much of it had been incorporated into state policy.

The plaintiffs had asked the court to appoint a special commissioner to oversee the implementation of court-ordered changes to the system, a request they withdrew as part of the recent agreement.

The agreement also calls for establishing committees to advise the state board of education on tests and testing procedures; a remedy for teacher shortages; improving vocational offerings; and strategies for addressing inadequacy in science facilities and equipment in secondary schools.

Advisory-committee members will include representatives of the plaintiff schoolchildren, the state school board, the legislature, and the West Virginia Education Association—the state’s largest teachers’ union and an affiliate of National Education Association—which joined the suit in 1998.

Judge Recht is expected to decide on the funding issues—including the legality of additional property taxes levied by some counties for their schools—later this month, if the state and the plaintiffs have not reached a second agreement.

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding Reported Essay Are We Asking Schools to Do Too Much?
Schools are increasingly being saddled with new responsibilities. At what point do we decide they are being overwhelmed?
5 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Education Funding Interactive Look Up How Much COVID Relief Aid Your School District is Getting
The federal government gave schools more than $190 billion to help them recover from the pandemic. But the money was not distributed evenly.
2 min read
Education Funding Explainer Everything You Need to Know About Schools and COVID Relief Funds
How much did your district get in pandemic emergency aid? When must the money be spent? Is there more on the way? EdWeek has the answers.
11 min read
090221 Stimulus Masks AP BS
Dezirae Espinoza wears a face mask while holding a tube of cleaning wipes as she waits to enter Garden Place Elementary School in Denver for the first day of in-class learning since the start of the pandemic.
David Zalubowski/AP
Education Funding Why Dems' $82 Billion Proposal for School Buildings Still Isn't Enough
Two new reports highlight the severe disrepair the nation's school infrastructure is in and the crushing district debt the lack of federal and state investment has caused.
4 min read
Founded 55 years ago, Foust Elementary received its latest update 12-25 years ago for their HVAC units. If the school receives funds from the Guilford County Schools bond allocation, they will expand classrooms from the back of the building.
Community members in Guilford, N.C. last week protested the lack of new funding to improve the district's crumbling school facilities.
Abby Gibbs/News & Record via AP