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School funding, teacher pay issues key in W.Va. House race

October 25, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The West Virginia House of Delegates race between Del. Locke Wysong and Republican Bob Adams is heating up as the two spar over issues related to funding for local schools.

Wysong, D-Jefferson, is seeking his second two-year term in the 58th delegate district, which covers Charles Town, Ranson, W.Va., and the southeastern parts of Jefferson County. It also covers the Tuscawilla Hills and Locust Hill subdivisions.

Adams and Wysong will meet in the Nov. 7 general election to determine who gets the $15,000-a-year job.

Bob Adams

Adams, 37, of 261 Falcon Ridge Drive, Charles Town, said he thinks the state of public schools in the area is the defining issue in the race.

Adams said he is running for the Legislature because he thinks Eastern Panhandle schools are in a "crisis" because of low teacher pay that is causing teachers to leave their jobs in large numbers for better pay in neighboring states.

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Adams said Wysong has talked about locality pay - which is higher pay for Eastern Panhandle teachers - but "that's all it is, a lot of talk. A lot of noise," Adams said.

Adams said Wysong has said the Legislature was able to get a 3 percent pay increase for teachers, but Adams calls that a "crummy little pay raise" considering the high costs of living faced by local teachers.

Adams said Wysong has stated he works with the state School Building Authority to get local schools the funding they need, but Jefferson County did not get any funding in its last funding distribution cycle.

"That really goes to a question of leadership," Adams said.

Other local lawmakers say they have fought for locality pay but said it's tough getting support for it from other lawmakers in the state.

Adams said his strategy for locality pay would be pressuring Gov. Joe Manchin to "move off the dime" on pay increases. If that doesn't work, maybe the Legislature needs to take legal action, Adams said.

Adams also supports eliminating the state's food tax, and he said previously that the idea of taxing people for the food they eat is "repugnant, prehistoric."

Adams is a small-business owner and part of his work includes leasing party equipment for youth-related functions.

Locke Wysong

Wysong, 33, defended his work on school funding issues, saying the state's school funding system is different from nearby states that have more county-by-county flexibility.

Wysong said what makes funding issues difficult is that county school systems must operate under a 1982 Kanawha County Circuit Court decision that says funding to all county school systems must be equal.

Wysong, of Charles Town, said his work on teacher salaries includes improvements in the step pay increase system. Teachers are entitled to step pay increases the longer they teach in West Virginia, but money for the increases did not always exist, he said.

Wysong said the Legislature has gone back and awarded those increases that have not been honored, which gave some teachers hefty increases.

Now that the system has been corrected, lawmakers can examine more comprehensive pay increases for teachers, Wysong said.

Wysong said there has been more dialogue than ever before in the Legislature in recent years over the school funding issues that are important to the Eastern Panhandle.

"You have to work as a team and that's what we've been doing. It takes time," said Wysong, adding that he has been a member of the House education committee and other subcommittees that have examined ways to reform school funding.

Wysong said the suggestion that a lack of funding from the School Building Authority for Jefferson County is somehow his fault "is ludicrous."

Wysong is an apprentice real estate appraiser and is training to become a residential home inspector.

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