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Many can share praise for school survey's high marks

January 09, 2004

In the race to get ready for the federal "No Child Left Behind" law, West Virginia apparently is a step ahead. So says Education Week's annual Quality Counts report, released this week.

Covering all 50 states and funded by the Pew Charitable Trust, the report looks at a number of factors including:

- the quality of teachers,

- the standards in place and how schools are held accountable to them,

- the state's financial commitment to education and,

- how equitably those funds are spent.

But even though the state received high marks for standards, accountability and the allocation of sufficient resources to schools, the report said the state school system could do a better job of spending funds equitably.

Although the report said that compared to other states West Virginia has few problems involving wide disparities between spending in different school districts, it also noted that affluent districts still get more state and local funding than their poorer counterparts.

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That will probably continue as long as the system depends on local property-tax revenues.

Pennsylvania is currently undergoing an effort to change its system so that more funding comes from income tax and less from property levies, which can seriously affect senior-citizen homeowners on fixed incomes.

As for the equitability issue, the state's spending plans apparently satisfied Judge Arthur Recht, who's been handling a lawsuit filed over that issue 20 years ago by a Lincoln County parent.

In January of last year, the judge decided not to force a constitutional crisis by ordering the state to spend more on education, but reserved the right to reopen the case if he doesn't observe continued progress.

Based on the Education Week survey, it seems safe to say that despite the state's strained financial condition, it has taken to heart the West Virginia Roundtable's idea that education is the key to the state's future.

But some folks other than state officials deserve much of the praise for this achievement. Every classroom teacher, every administrator and every parent who sees that a student is prepared to learn should share in the credit for the high marks received on this "report card."

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