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School Aid formula changes supported

November 29, 2018

CHARLESTON — A West Virginia Board of Education committee on school finance and funding on Tuesday formally approved recommendations for changes to the state School Aid funding formula, changes intended to make funding more equitable and to more directly meet student needs.

“We’ve got to look at the longterm costs to the state and the cost of children who are not successful,” Tom Campbell, board member and committee chairman, said of the process. “For every child who drops out, there’s a tremendous long-term cost to the state.”

Among the recommendations, which will be taken up by the Board of Education at its Dec. 12 meeting, are:

• Increasing pay and number of positions for teachers and school service personnel in order to better serve student needs, taking into account the increased costs of educating students in sparsely populated counties, as well as students from low-income households.

“That’s the whole point of this is to make sure there are enough teachers and service personnel to meet the needs of students,” committee member Christine Campbell, president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said.

• Increased funding to provide

adequate maintenance for school facilities.

• Addressing issues with recruiting and retaining teachers to remedy the high costs and disruption of classroom learning through increased reliance on substitute teachers.

One issue raised Tuesday is that teachers hired after 2010 have no incentive not to use sick days since they cannot “bank” those days for increased pension benefits or PEIA health insurance coverage when they retire.

Making the case for restoring the ability to bank sick days, Tom Campbell noted, “It might be positive cost-wise to do it, and it’s going to improve instruction. You’re not going to have kids sitting in the auditorium.”

Campbell was referencing a comment earlier in the discussion about a school where four classrooms of students were sent to the school auditorium because their teachers were absent that day.

• Increasing the faculty senate reimbursement for teachers to buy classroom supplies and educational materials to help keep up with rising costs for those materials.

Currently, faculty senates receive $200 per year per teacher under the School Aid formula, $100 of which goes to the teacher to reimburse purchases of classroom materials and supplies, and the remainder of which is allocated through votes by the faculty senates.

Christine Campbell said the current reimbursement process is flawed.

“Why aren’t we just providing money for instructional materials instead of saying to teachers, ’You spend your own money and we’ll pay you back?”

Tom Campbell added, “What I’ve found is this is a big morale issue with teachers. It adds to their feeling of not being respected.”

• Increasing numbers of “response personnel” — mental health counselors, guidance counselors, school nurses and psychologists — to address issues for children who come from homes where they receive little emotional or financial support, frequently because their parents are addicted to drugs.

• Increased funding for career technical education and for alternative education options.

“It needs to be more front and center,” said Ryan White, committee member and Kanawha County school board president.

Declining public school enrollment is projected to reduce state funding for the School Aid formula by about $30 million in the 2018-19 budget year, potentially providing a revenue source for the proposed requests for funding increases.

Reach Phil Kabler at phllk@wvgazettemall.com, 304-348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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