Public education in West Virginia

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The West Virginia public school system (prekindergarten-grade 12) operates within districts governed by locally elected school boards members and superintendents. West Virginia has approximately 55 public school districts.

The West Virginia state constitution requires that the state legislature "provide, by general law, for a thorough and efficient system of free schools."[1]

School revenues, expenditures and budget

See also: West Virginia state budget
West Virginia's education costs are 14% of the state budget

West Virginia's total state budget for fiscal year 2011 is approximately $18.3 billion; education accounts for an estimated 14.2% of the total budget or $2.5986 billion.[2] West Virginia faced an estimated $120 million deficit by the end of the FY 2010 budget as reported December 2009.[3] Gov. Joe Manchin III and his staff said they were "cautious but not alarmed" by the shortfall given West Virginia finished FY 2009 with a $68 million surplus, had a $500 million Rainy Day Fund, and had not spent the full amount of federal stimulus funds.[4]

State revenues for the fiscal year since July 1, 2009 have been $16 million less than estimated. The month of October 2009 saw a slight $1.3 million collection increase, but the trend is expected to be continued revenue declines for the two key sources of income and sales taxes through June 30, 2010.[5] Gov. Manchin has asked the Department of Education to cut 4% for its FY 2011 budget planning and all other state agencies to trim 5%.

The cost per pupil is $9,8524, ranking 24th in the nation according the Census Bureau 2007-2008 report.[6]

Personnel salaries

In the 2007-2008 school year the average teacher salary in West Virginia was $42,528.10, as compared to a $40,534.13 in the 2006-2007 school year. According to the Department of Education the state saw a reduction of approximately 14.63 classroom teachers in the 2007-2008 school year. The chart below highlights the average statewide salary from 2004-2008.[7][8]

School year Number of classroom teachers Average teacher salary
2004-2005[9] 20,213.81 $39,583.20
2006-2007[8] 19,848.26 $40,534.13
2007-2008[7] 19,833.63 $42,528.10

Role of unions

The main unions related to the West Virginia school system are the West Virginia Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, and the West Virginia Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. For the 2003 tax period the West Virginia Education Association had: $3.55 million in total revenue, $3.59 million in total expenses and $1.00 million in total assets.[10] The West Virginia Federation of Teachers had: $1.30 million in total revenue, $1.34 million in total expenses and $49,804 in total assets.[11]

List of local West Virginia school unions:[12]

Role of school boards

The State Board of Education consists of 12 board members including nine citizens appointed by the governor and three non-voting ex-officio members (the State Superintendent of Schools, the Chancellor of West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, and the Chancellor of Community and Technical College Education). Board members serve overlapping terms of nine years and according to the Department of Education, no more than five citizen members may belong to the same political party. The board of education meets at least once a month and is responsible for establishing educational policies for elementary and secondary schools.[13]

Taxpayer-funded lobbying

See also: West Virginia government sector lobbying

The main education government sector lobbying organization is the West Virginia School Boards Association.


West Virginia currently has limited transparency. The West Virginia legislature website posts information about state grant awards here, but unfortunately "The Budget & Spending Transparency Act," which would have created greater spending transparency, did not pass during the 2009 legislative session. However, in state legislator Kelli Sobonya's own words, "I will reintroduce this bill [The Budget & Spending Transparency Act] again next session for consideration."[14]


After the results of a recent audit surfaced, the West Virginia State Board of Education surfaced took over the Grant County school system in November 2009.

The Office of Education Performance Audits (OEPA) conducted an audit of the school system and found what they called “serious county board leadership problems…as well as personnel and curriculum issues.”

“It looks bleak and we think things are getting worse and not better,” said OEPA Executive Director Kenna Seal in a press release. “Students are being deprived of what they deserve from the educational system.”

The leadership failure has been attributed to the Grant County Board of Education and several highly irregular actions it took related to state code and state school policy.

“In looking through this report, I was very disturbed,” said West Virginia Board of Education Member Delores Cook. “The bottom line is that the lack of leadership has impacted the students and that is not acceptable.”[15]

Academic performance

The chart below details whether the state met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements for the 2008-2009 school year. Highlighted indicators include Reading, Mathematics, and Graduation Rate. AYP is used by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program to determine the academic performance of schools. According to state's annual report card, the state as a whole met all AYP requirements for the 2008-2009 school year. According to 2008-2009 statistics the West Virginia school system had a total enrollment of 281,894, an attendance rate of 96.58%, a graduation rate of 83.81% or 17,676 graduates, a dropout rate of 2.8% and average class size of 20.1.[16]

Year Mathematics Reading Graduation Rate
2005-2006[17] Met AYP Met AYP Met AYP
2006-2007[18] Met AYP Met AYP Met AYP
2007-2008[19] Met AYP Met AYP Met AYP
2008-2009[16] Met AYP Met AYP Met AYP

State Budget Solutions’ Education Study: “Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working”

State Budget Solutions’ examined national trends in education from 2009-2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates, and average ACT scores. The study shows that states that spend the most do not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor do they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. Download the full report here: Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working.

See National Chart to compare data from all 50 states.

State Spending on Education vs. Academic Performance 2012

State 2011 Total Spending[20] 2011 Education Spending[21] 2011 Percent Education Spending 2012 Total Spending[22] 2012 Education Spending[23] 2012 Percent Education Spending 2010 Avg. ACT score[24] 2011 Avg. ACT score[25] 2012 Avg. ACT score[26] 2010 Graduation Rate[27] 2011 Graduation Rate[28]
West Virginia $15.6 billion $5.1 billion 32.6% $16.3 billion $5.5 billion 33.7% 20.7 20.6 20.6 78.2% 77.3%

School choice

School choice options include:

  • Charter schools: The state of West Virginia does not have a charter school law.[29]
  • Public school open enrollment: the state of West Virginia has two main open enrollment policies: intra-district and inter-district. In other words, students are permitted to enroll in any school outside and within their neighborhood school district. For intra-district transfers a request may be filed by a parent or guardian including the reasons for the request. However, the superintendent gives the green light to transfer a student to another school. Additionally, students attending a low-performing school are permitted to attend a different school within their district. For inter-district transfers the board of education of each county has the authority to transfer students either on a part-time or full-time bases.[30]
  • Online learning: West Virginia does have a state-led online program, however, because it does not have a charter school law, does not have online charter schools. The state-led program is known as the West Virginia Virtual School (WVVS), a supplemental program for students in grades 7-12. According to reports, in the 2007-2008 school year there were approximately 1,705 registered students.[29]

External links


  1. West Virginia Constitution,"Article XII, Section 1," retrieved May 21, 2010
  2. West Virginia State Budget Office,"Governor's FY 2011 Budget - where the dollar goes," retrieved May 21, 2010
  3. Times West Virginian,"Bright spots can outshine mandated budget cuts," December 30, 2009
  4. Times West Virginian, "$100M budget deficit not so alarming," November 8, 2009
  5. Associated Press, "Lagging Revenues Threaten Budget Deficit in WV," November 3, 2009
  6. Maine Watchdog, Education Spending Per Child, July 6, 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 West Virginia Department of Education,"2007-2008 Average Contracted Salaries - Classroom Teachers," retrieved May 21, 2010
  8. 8.0 8.1 West Virginia Department of Education,"2006-2007 Average Contracted Salaries - Classroom Teachers," retrieved May 21, 2010
  9. West Virginia Department of Education,"2004-2005 Average Contracted Salaries - Classroom Teachers," retrieved May 21, 2010
  10. Center for Union Facts,"West Virginia Education Association," retrieved May 20, 2010
  11. Center for Union Facts,"West Virginia Federation of Teachers," retrieved May 20, 2010
  12. Center for Union Facts,"West Virginia teachers unions," retrieved May 20, 2010
  13. West Virginia Department of Education,"State Board of Education," retrieved May 21, 2010
  14. West Virginia Republican Party, "Delegate Sobonya's guest editorial submitted to herald dispatch/wayne co. news," June 17, 2009
  15. BREAKING: West Virginia BOE Takes Over Grant County School, West Virginia Watchdog, November 9, 2009
  16. 16.0 16.1 West Virginia Department of Education,"2008-09 NCLB Report Card," retrieved May 21, 2010
  17. West Virginia Department of Education,"2005-06 NCLB Report Card," retrieved May 21, 2010
  18. West Virginia Department of Education,"2006-07 NCLB Report Card," retrieved May 21, 2010
  19. West Virginia Department of Education,"2007-08 NCLB Report Card," retrieved May 21, 2010
  20. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  21. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  22. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  23. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  24. 2010 ACT National and State Scores "Average Scores by State"
  25. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  26. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  27. National Center for Education Statistics
  28. National Center for Education Statistics
  29. 29.0 29.1 The Heritage Foundation,"West Virginia School Choice," retrieved May 21, 2010
  30. Education Commission of the States,"Open Enrollment: 50-State Report," retrieved May 21, 2010