Issues in 25-Year-Old Education Case Are Resolved

August 03, 2000

The pending education issues in a 25-year-old landmark case that found the state's system of education funding illegal and discriminatory were resolved today by an agreed order.  

Special Judge Arthur Recht, who originally heard the case in 1982, accepted the agreed order of the parties today indicating that public education should be judged by test scores, attendance and facilities rather than by the resources they receive.  

In 1983, Recht had approved a Master Plan for education that detailed the people and resources that need to be available to each school and school system. Today's order effectively replaces the Master Plan for education with the codification of H.B. 4306, WV Code 18-2E-5, the Legislature's Process for Improving Education, and policies of the State Board of Education.  

The new order in the Tomblin v. Gainer case is a compromise between proponents of the original master plan and those who support performance-based evaluation of schools.  

We think this is the best way for schools to be judged, said State Superintendent Dr. David Stewart. We believe that this focus on results is a more appropriate measure of what people are getting for their tax dollars than some measure of how many resources school systems have with which to operate.  

According to the order signed today, several advisory committees are to be established. The committees are charged with examining tests and testing procedures, pursuing a remedy in teacher shortages, addressing delivery of appropriate vocational offerings, and devising strategies to address inadequacies in science facilities and equipment in grades 7-12.  

Education funding issues still remain, but a second court ruling could be issued in the future. Judge Recht indicated it was up to the Legislature to create a plan to fund local school systems.  

The order recognized that the State Board of Education has made substantial progress in the improvement of facilities and in incorporating other portions of the Master Plan through its policies.  

The Tomblin v. Gainer case was originally filed in 1975 by several parents from Lincoln County alleging that the education system was unconstitutional because property-poor counties were not able to provide adequate resources for children.  

In recent years, the State Board of Education has put in place through its policies a strong process that sets standards for what students are expected to learn; defines the level at which students are expected to function; and tests whether students are functioning at that level.  

Obviously, the provision of resources alone is not an adequate measure of whether a thorough and efficient system of education is being provided to students, said Superintendent Stewart. The State Board is convinced that student achievement is the only accurate measurement of how well a system is meeting its responsibility.  

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