WASTE WATCHState Schools Audit
from Eyewitness News Online
Findings Show Taxpayers Are Getting Bad Return
February 7, 2013
A recent audit of the state school system found ways to save taxpayers more than a $100 million over the course of five years.
A fourth of those savings comes from salaries of employees within the West Virginia Department of Education.
With that said, the audit shows West Virginians are getting a bad return on their investment as scores in the classroom aren't adding up.
The audit found when you compare the number of administrative staff members to students West Virginia ranks second, only behind Alaska.
In West Virginia, there is one agency staff member for every 419 students. Surrounding states function with far fewer staff, one for every 2,100 in Kentucky and one for every 3,100 in Ohio. In Virginia, its school system has only one staff member for every 4,600 students.
"We have to change the culture of the WVDE," Superintendent Jim Phares said. "It has been a bureaucracy and one that talks about shalls and shall nots with gates that some systems can move through and some cannot. We have to change that mindset here at the department."
Phares said education officials are working to repurpose the department and reduce the number of employees at the Department of Education.
The West Virginia Department of Education spends nearly $21 million on salaries for staff members each year, that doesn't include anyone within actual schools.
No teachers, no principals, no one on the county level -- that much could be saved in five years by eliminating 53 high level positions.
Phares said he has started an outreach program and plans to visit local school boards and isn't opposed to giving them more control, but said even bigger changes need to be made to ensure children are getting the education they need to succeed.
The audit took several factors into consideration, such as the rural nature of West Virginia, the population and the fact that the state has the most regulated education system in the nation.
Even with those factors, the size of the Department of Education couldn't be justified.
Phares said Department of Education officials are in a bit of a holding pattern right now, until they see what comes out of the legislative session this year.
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