(10/25/2002)
Focus On Education - Dramatic changes are moving in education, with critical questioning and numerous challenges facing the future of public education in the Mountain State.

By Bob Weaver

The State Board of Education will likely take control of the independent RESA's (Regional Education Service Agencies), following the passage of a bill during the final hours of the last legislative session.

The regional RESA-V board represents Calhoun, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Tyler, Wirt and Wood counties.

Calhoun School Superintendent Ron Blankenship said "Local control of the RESA board will be given to the state," although the issue is still open for comment.

Blankenship said the State Board of Education was not aware of the measure until after the session was over, indicating it was a legislative move to centralize and transfer more power away from the counties.

"I am not pleased about the action," said Blankenship, who has served on the RESA-V Board which has offices in Parkersburg.

Wood County Superintendent of Schools Dan Curry feared the agencies' Board of Directors might become nothing more than a figurehead body. The State Board of Education will consider the matter during their November meeting.

Curry said the RESA agencies may become simply advisory groups. "My enthusiasm and the likelihood I will attend them regularly will diminish," he said, a position seconded by Calhoun's Ron Blankenship.

The 11th hour legislation was reportedly sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Jackson, D-Lincoln, who said "It is our desire that the state board revisit the delegation of authority to the RESA's."

Gov. Wise has indicated he wants to appoint Sen. Jackson to the State Board of Education, while he also says he wants to appoint more members who are open to the idea of small schools. Jackson is not.

The state board will have a major role in implementing the new federal law called "No Child Left Behind."

State Board President J. D. Morris recently resigned after being accused of stealing $172,000 from the Clay County Bank. Robert Rupp, a political science professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College said the Morris problem continues to tarnish the board and the School Building Authority.

While much of the nation has been moving away from large consolidated schools, the State of West Virginia has stayed on that roller coaster, building large multi-million dollar complexes, often at considerable distances from the homes of students.

Sen. Jackson's education committee reported Tuesday that most if not all public schools in West Virginia could fail to meet federal standards of "No Child Left Behind." The federal education law is several thousand pages.

Every school must show marked improvement by 2013-14. "There are approximately 45 different ways a school can fail to make adequate yearly progress," said Jackson.

"We are going to have hundreds of schools not make that standard."

A serious of corrective actions to improve schools will be implemented, but if they fail, replacing all or most of the school staff and principal is foremost, or the state could take over the school or it could enter into private contracts, use vouchers, or private groups to provide education.

The federal law does not address a problem related to rural areas, namely what kids are to do if their school flunks and there is only one school in the county.

Consolidation of schools has also created longer driving distances over crooked roads and mountains. Students might be allowed to attend school in a neighboring state in border counties.

A new study by the American Legislative Exchange Council says West Virginia ranks 39th in the nation in student achievement between 1976 and 2001, despite leading the country in the amount of money spent for each student.

West Virginia increased their per pupil spending by 109 percent during the period, compared with 23 percent nationally.

The study said none of the ten states that spent the most money per pupil ranked in the top ten in academic achievement.

The study indicated smaller schools, higher pupil-to-teacher ratios, and a lower percentage of the state's total budget actually did better.


Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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