Journalist’s Notebook: It all adds up | News, Sports, Jobs


This column is called “Journalist’s Notebook” partly because it’s supposed to be a place to write about things I couldn’t fit in or had to delete stories. Newspapers have limited space and I’m sure editors curse my name when they see a 2,000 word story.

I wrote a few articles last week focused on the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report card results, which were not good both for the nation and for our home here in Virginia -Western. I have also included the Balanced Scorecard from the West Virginia Department of Education.

I will not rehash the score. You can read my stories from last week. But I’ve been actively researching a whole host of statistics on education in West Virginia for quite some time. In short, our education system is more funded than ever, even though the number of students has been steadily decreasing for nearly 20 years. But the funding does not appear to trickle down to teacher salaries.

Let’s run through the numbers.

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The state saw an approximately 6% drop in total enrollment for the school year between the end of the 2019 school year and the end of the 2022 school year, from 237,968 students to 224,108 students. West Virginia started the 2021-2022 school year with 250,899 students, down nearly 20% from total enrollment at the start of the 2014-2015 school year, when there had 279,899 students in West Virginia schools.

Data from the Department of Education includes enrollment in 646 public schools, 29 pre-kindergarten programs and nine alternative schools.

While enrollment has plummeted, combined federal and state spending per student between the 2019 and 2022 school years has increased more than 8%, from $12,245 per student to $13,256 per student according to the Department of Education’s own data. State Education.

According to the K-12 Education Spending Spotlight published annually by the Libertarian Reason Foundation, West Virginia has seen a 15% increase in total revenue (federal, state, and local) per student over 18 years. Adjusted for inflation, spending per student fell from $12,350 per student in 2002 to $14,163 per student by 2020. Enrollment during the same 2002-2020 period decreased by 6.6 %, going from 282,245 to 263,486.

“Long before the pandemic decimated student enrollment numbers, many states were already losing students,” says the Reason Foundation report.

Between the 2019 and 2022 school years, West Virginia received more than $1.2 billion in federal COVID-19 emergency funds through the CARES Act in March 2020, the Supplementary Appropriations Act of Coronavirus Response and Relief in December 2020 and the US Bailout Act in March 2021.

According to the Department of Revenue, federal funding for public education accounted for 7.1% of the estimated $7.462 billion the state was to receive from the federal government in fiscal year 2022 ending in July.

According to the State Budget Office, approximately 42.7 percent of the state’s general revenue budget of more than $4.635 billion is spent on pre-K-12 education. In fiscal year 2021, the state spent more than $2.09 billion on public education through the General Revenue Fund, Special Revenue Fund, and Lottery/Lottery Surplus Funds – an increase of 4.5% compared to the 2019 financial year.

Yet despite three 5% pay increases for teachers and school service staff since fiscal year 2019 (and a fourth proposed by Governor Jim Justice for lawmakers to consider in the 2023 legislative session), wages remain low. According to the National Education Association, West Virginia ranks 40th in the nation with an average starting salary of $37,987. The state ranks 49th in overall average teacher salary of $50,261.

A Department of Education stat that I saw on multiple outlets, including WV MetroNews, said there were 1,196 teaching vacancies in West Virginia last year. Officials expect that number to increase this school year. I suspect that with older teachers retiring and the state struggling to attract new teachers, you’ll also see an overall average teacher payroll of $50,261 at a lower amount.

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I interviewed Senate Education Committee Chair Amy Grady, R-Mason, about what needs to happen in the future to improve the standard of education in schools. We talked about the issue of funding, and she had a good answer.

“We spend a lot of money on trustee education and in the board office, but the first place the money is cut is local schools,” said Grady. “Instead of cutting positions in the board office or things like that, we are cutting budgets in schools and we are very heavy. This is a huge problem that I think needs to be solved and needs to be changed so that it trickles down to our schools and makes them more successful.

I listened last week to an emergency meeting of the West Virginia school board about issues within the Logan County school system, its school board, and the county’s deputy superintendent. I also read the full report. One read of this, and you’ll quickly see that Grady might be right.

Steven Allen Adams can be contacted at [email protected]




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