New cash for W.Va. schools?

February 13, 2007

When it comes to teacher-raise proposals in West Virginia, there are now two competing views.

One holds that the state can afford raises higher than the 2.5 percent originally proposed by Gov. Joe Manchin, but doesn't have the political will to raise the revenue needed to do that.

The other holds that raises topping 2.5 percent would be desirable, but just aren't affordable in the near future.

The Associated Press reported that earlier in the 60-day session, the government sent revenue estimates suggesting that going beyond 2.5 percent would put the state in a deficit situation in less than two years.

Administration officials claim their approach - phasing in larger raises over several years -will give the state time to grow revenues without creating long-term financial problems.


But from local school systems' perspective, it's a problem to ask teachers to accept a 2.5 percent raise when they can get 5 percent just for crossing the state line.

So where will the revenues come from? One approach proposed by author Rick Garlikov, who suggested it to supplement the Alabama school system's budget.

Garlikov proposed that the state's department of education set up a voluntary fund to which those interested in educational improvement would contribute.

Cash raised would not replace existing funding, but supplement it. Fund use would be restricted mostly to building new schools, rehabilitating old ones and additional teaching materials.

Vanity-type license plates, such as those used by Maryland, could be one way, Garlikov said, adding that perhaps a decal or sticker identifying someone as a contributor would be sufficient.

If there is a downside to such a proposal, it would be that the state's residents might not contribute enough to make a difference.

But not to try something new because it might not succeed seems like a poor excuse for inaction - and a poor lesson for the state's schoolchildren.

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