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Student spending idea shot down by board

August 21, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Board of Education voted down member Pat Murphy's idea of forming a committee to examine why Berkeley County ranks third from the bottom in per-pupil expenditures.

According to the most recent figures available, in 1999 Berkeley County spent $6,256 per pupil, most of which went toward teacher salaries, Murphy said.

Pleasants County spends $8,219 per student. The state average is about $6,953 per student, Murphy said.

Members of Murphy's proposed committee would have examined ways to obtain more money for students, he said.

After debating with Murphy for several minutes over different aspects of his proposal, board members voted 3-1 against it at their meeting Monday night. Board President Bill Queen and members Rick Pill and Todd Beckwith voted "no." Member William Norris did not attend the meeting. Murphy voted for it.

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Several factors, including teacher salaries, determine how much the state will contribute to per-pupil expenditures. The more experience a teacher has, the higher his or her salary. A county with more experienced, higher-paid teachers gets more money for each student. Berkeley County ranks low because it has the highest percentage statewide of teachers with 0 to 3 years of experience, Queen said.

Queen said Berkeley County is not necessarily in a bad position with its lower per-pupil rate. In two counties that spend more, the school systems were taken over by the state because of poor money handling, he said.

Queen said he opposed Murphy's plan to chair the committee, saying it's inappropriate because he is a board member.

Murphy said he was willing to amend the proposal, but board members rejected the idea.

Beckwith said a committee made up of more than a dozen members of the community might not be the best way to examine the problem. He said administrators might be better prepared to look at ways to obtain more money from the state.

Murphy disagreed. "Sometimes the same people who look at the same issue get glassy-eyed," he said. "I really think we need fresh eyes looking at this issue."

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