West Virginia spent $3.5 billion on primary and secondary education in fiscal 2010. That made it one of the top 10 states in the nation for per-pupil spending.
But there are few indications the state is getting its money’s worth. Student achievement is not good.
Former Gov. Joe Manchin pushed for an audit of school spending before his election to the U.S. Senate. Longtime state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, who replaced Manchin as governor, commissioned a $750,000 study by Public Works LLC.
The verdict was unsparing:
“We have encountered no other state that insulates its education system so much from gubernatorial — or voter — control; restricts local initiative so much on the part of districts … and vests so much authority for education at the state level,” the report said.
“It runs counter to most of the concern and thinking in educational reform today that individual initiative and accountability should be encouraged, while responsibility for education must ultimately come to a single point at the top of the pyramid.”
West Virginia could save $90 million a year if it changed its approach, the audit said.
That’s not chump change. Over 10 years, it’s $900 million.
West Virginia needs $900 million as badly as it needs educational results.
Consultants made a number of observations. Public education is overly regulated and inflexible, has too many high-level administrators, too many cumbersome state laws, should adopt a merit-based approach to teacher pay, should ease requirements for alternative certification of teachers, should streamline regional education agencies — and more.
For example, the report said cutting some top-level jobs could save the state $4 million a year. In the context of a $3.5 billion spigot of spending, $4 million sounds like a leak. …
But the sense of momentum is clear. The status quo will no longer be accepted.
An outside look at how the state runs education produced valuable insights.
It’s perhaps the best opening West Virginians have ever had to create a school system that produces results as impressive as the sums it spends.
— Distributed by The Associated Press