By Bob Weaver

A few days after it looked like the State Department of Education was taking power away from the regional RESA boards, there is talk of consolidating the 55 counties to save money, combat declining enrollment and improve equity across the state.

Seventy years ago West Virginia consolidated 398 school systems into 55 county units. Education watchers say that will change, maybe sooner than we think.

The West Virginia School Building Authority has a plan to cut the number of school boards in half.

The West Virginia School Boards Association will make another proposal, consolidating the administrative functions, doing away with county administrative staffs for every county, but keeping the 55 elected county boards.

It is unclear why "local" school boards would be necessary. County school boards have little independence in decision making, with the State Board of Education making decisions in Charleston, under mandates by the West Virginia Legislature.

Now, the federal government is usurping more educational muscle with President Bush and his "Leave No Child Behind" program, one of the most dramatic federal initiatives in history.

Local control of education has become an illusion, according to a local school official, who declined to be quoted.

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