David Stewart, the new superintendent of state schools, has proposed changing the way in which public education is funded. He would eliminate the school funding formula provision that penalizes counties with a high number of special education students. Stewart also suggests doing away with the smattering of county excess levies and increase to 100 percent the tax rate on appraised property values.
Stewart says his proposals could raise an extra $49 million a year. Whether or not his ideas will fly, they should at least be examined.
The state of West Virginia is still in court over the way it funds education; the plaintiffs in the landmark Recht Decision sued again a few years back, claiming the state wasn't living up to the terms of the ruling.
This all comes at a time when the Legislature is about to address tax reform. Gov. Underwood's task force made sweeping proposals last year, but lawmakers didn't consider them in the 2000 session because it was an election year.
Now, come January, we'll have a new governor and the tax reform effort could be delayed even more. Bob Wise is not likely to put his stamp on Underwood's tax package and will probably appoint a task force of his own. It's all very unfortunate.
Education funding and tax reform go hand-in-hand. If we are to come up with a plan to adequately fund education in all 55 counties, it has to start with our system of taxation.
It is our hope that Governor-elect Wise and the Legislature can still address tax reform in the 2001 session. To delay the matter for another year would not be in anyone's best interest.
Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Matt Harvey, Nora Edinger and J. Cecil Jarvis.