West Virginia has one of the most
highly centralized and impermeable education systems in the country according
to the Education Efficiency Audit of West Virginia’s Primary and Secondary School System conducted by the Pennsylvania consulting firm Public
Eric Schnurer says no other state education system is so highly regulated in
you’re the only state where the ed system is essentially set up as a fourth
branch of government,” said Schnurer.
the West Virginia Department of Education is “constitutionally enshrined” as
independent from the Executive and Legislative branches, obviously designed to
keep it free and independent of political influence, but he says there are some
costs by doing that.
Legislature has attempted to assert some control over legislative policy and as
a result has passed a lot of statutes to try to define what the role of the
department is within constitutional limits,” said Schnurer.
side effect of the constitutional arrangement that you have in West Virginia is you have a lot more that has
been put into statute by the legislature than any other state which makes the
system much less flexible, and certainly less flexible at the local level.”
most states just about everything that needs to be done in education is set out
in state code. So it’s a much more top-down, centralized, rule-driven system
than in most states in the country,” he said.
That runs counter
to the trend in education policy today, according to Schnurer, which is to
decentralize, giving teachers more authority in their classroom and principals
more authority in their buildings.
also ranks West Virginia second in the country for the
number of state-level staff when compared to student populations.
has a lot of employees that have functions that aren’t the direct oversight of
k12 education,” said Schnurer. “It’s providing services in some cases that
aren’t provided by some state level departments; they oversee a variety of
functions that wouldn’t be in education departments in other states.”
roughly half of their personnel,” he
other hand, even when you take those additional personnel out and do a straight
comparison with what you find in other states, the WV DOE, relative to the
number of students that you have, is still significantly larger than the
probably benefit from some restructuring and right-sizing that would then free
up resources for other sorts of education needs,” he added.
recommends a 20 percent decrease in the State Board of Education office,
roughly 50 positions, over the next several years.
notes the State Superintendent of Schools has already put a freeze on new
hirers, and with many current public employees reaching retirement age in the
coming years, attrition could help with a down-sizing goal.
consultant says the single biggest area where cost-saving can be found in West Virginia’s public education system is in
system at the state level and local level just like any organization purchases
lots of things from the outside world, from paper supplies to fuel oil for the
buses,” he said.
that is bought can be bought more efficiently and effectively by combining the
purchasing power of individual districts, coordinating how things are done
across the whole system, you can drive better deals and get better prices and
save money,” he said.
biggest area of cost savings could come from efficiencies in managing our
school buildings, according to Schnurer.
savings that can be realized through energy efficiency in the buildings, from
how the buildings are constructed and maintained, to managing the air
are things that you wouldn’t necessarily think of when you think of education
but they’re all elements of what goes into the education system and that’s
where most of the big savings are in this report,” said Schnurer.
The report suggests unloading
the Cedar Lakes Conference Center, recommends improved oversight of the Regional
Education Service Agencies, and the integration of dozens of Human Resources IT
just a lot of places where you’re not talking about a single something that is
outrageously bad,” said Schnurer. “You’re generally talking about things you
could do differently here and there, that are generally small amounts but if
you pay attention to a lot of these things they start to add up and you end up
with significant savings if you’re addressing everything you can be addressing.”
says if West Virginia were to implement all of the report’s recommendations
and apply the review process to all districts and RESAs, the annual savings
could total approximately $90 million.
that would allow the state to focus on recommendations made in the second half
of the report on how to improve student achievement.
include mandating a 180-day school year, improving teacher preparation and
evaluation, raising salaries, and providing technology in every classroom, to
In a statement State Superintendent of Schools Jorea
Marple said the West Virginia Board of Education and
the West Virginia Department of Education will work with the Governor and
Legislature to consider the audit recommendations.
“Many of the recommendations
align with the current direction and priorities of the WVBE and can be addressed
immediately,” she wrote. “Other recommendations need careful study and consideration as to
their overall impact on the well being of our students, educators and service