West Virginia Funding Flap Flops Back to Court

West Virginia Funding Flap Flops Back to Court

The boards of the Kanawha County (W.Va.) Schools and the Kanawha County Library were back before the state Supreme Court in early January to revisit a critical funding issue that had been believed to have been resolved last spring: Should boards of education in the state’s nine largest counties be required to share a percentage of their state aid with county libraries?

Ironically, the Kanawha school board is questioning the constitutionality of a law enacted last spring as the result of a separate lawsuit it brought in 2005. Both suits address the fairness of a decades-old library funding formula to school districts mandated to share part of their discretionary state aid. The Kanawha Board of Education is arguing that it “either doesn’t have to fund libraries at all, or that it would have complete discretion about how much money it actually gives to the library,” Kanawha County Library Director Alan Engelbert told American Libraries. Most of the eight other affected county boards of education are backing the plaintiff board, and their county library systems are supporting the defendant, although they have not signed onto the suit.

The new filing came some five months after Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring announced in August that he would withhold from the library system the $2.5 million Engelbert anticipated receiving—a sum that constitutes 34% of KCL’s FY2008 budget. Ultimately, school board members overrode Duerring’s decision in a 3–2 vote.

Although it is uncertain when—or whether—the court will rule, Engelbert was already breathing a sigh of relief January 15 because the Kanawha school board had approved funding the library’s FY2009 appropriation from the school system’s regular levy fund instead of placing the decision in voters’ hands, as the revised legislation permits.

Posted January 18, 2008.