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Editorial - First, the money issue

December 02, 1997

Editorial - First, the money issue

A state task force studying ways to equalize education spending across West Virginia has informed Gov. Cecil Underwood that it won't make a Monday Dec. 8 deadline for delivering its report. We'll waive the usual penalty for late homework if the report comes up with a good solution to this knotty problem.

Underwood named the panel this spring after Cabell County Circuit Judge Dan Robinson ruled that the state had never implemented a 1982 order to equalize school funding. The judge gave the state a year to do it. After that, he said, he would appoint a commissioner to do the job.

If the judiciary gets involved in decisions the legislature should make about how to spend taxpayers' money, it will be a sad day indeed and an admission that elected representatives aren't up to the job.

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Unless they want that label pinned on them, we recommend the lawmakers concentrate on the funding section of the task force's report, which will be delivered sometime next week. We say "the funding section," because when he announced it would be delivered late, task force chairman Ben Hayes also said the group's members had gone far beyond their original charge.

The report will now address issues like the state Board of Education's role in seeing that local schools meet state standards, teacher pay, accountability and the school calendar. This group apparently has a recommendation on everything but students' proper posture during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Let the legislature consider side issues separately, if members desire, but the first priority must be the funding issue, for two reasons.

No school system will agree to spend less than it's spending now in the name of equity, so it follows that more cash will be needed. And since voters turned down excess levies for that purpose in 1984 and 1988, other taxes will have to raised. Lawmakers must decide which taxes to hike - and by how much - before risking a detour into side issues like the number of holidays on the school calendar.

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