In a series of reports in the Sunday Exponent and Telegram, we found that almost 20 years after the landmark Recht decision, there is still heated debate over whether it has been fully implemented. While some action has been taken to equalize funding for the state's 55 county school systems, we feel that more could be done.
Since the 1982 ruling, all counties have reappraised their properties and a complex school aid formula has been introduced, but are the poorer counties on a more equal footing with the wealthier ones?
Doddridge County School Superintendent Jeff Moss says the school aid formula does not provide adequate funding for transportation. In affluent Berkeley County, Assistant Superintendent Jim Welton says they don't receive enough funding to teach special education students.
Gov. Underwood appointed two committees a few years ago to deal with overhauling the state's tax system and addressing the issue of school funding. The school committee deferred any decisions until the tax committee finished its work. Well, the tax committee finished its work last year but action in the Legislature was delayed because no one figured anything would be accomplished in the 2000 session because it's an election year.
The election might also serve to delay the process even more because if Underwood loses his bid for reelection, the new governor will likely not pay any attention to what the committees have to say.
The Recht matter could return to court if neither side comes to an agreement before the end of July. We understand that legislators hate to be told by the Supreme Court what to do and how to do it, but education is far too important to be approached halfheartedly.
If this state is to ever enjoy the fruits of the booming national economy, it must take bold steps to see that all of its children -- all of them -- have the same opportunities to receive a quality education.
Today's editorial is a reflection of 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.