Rural school systems certainly have their advantages. They also have some big challenges when it comes to funding, and something very serious could happen to our local schools if the federal government decides to discontinue a certain flow of monies.
For decades, states with large amounts of government-owned land have been somewhat dependent on funneling money to their schools through what's known as Payment in Lieu of Taxes. A congressional act guaranteed it and the more recent Secure Rural School and Community Self-Determination Act stabilized it. Now that act is set to expire.
In dollars it means a $400,000 loss to Randolph County Schools and $500,000 out of the budget for Pocahontas County Schools. In Randolph County, that likely would equate to the elimination of eight teachers or service personnel jobs, the cancellation of the outdoor education program and cuts to other courses including vocational, art, music, health and foreign languages. In addition, funding for extracurricular activities would have to be kept at a minimum.
Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Phares calls the result "devastating." It seems educators, parents and students would agree. Everyone else should take a hard look at this, too.
Our economy would suffer from job loss, and our future leaders may have fewer education opportunities. Plus, if more money is needed for the school system, it will have to come from somewhere.
Devastating? Yes. Likely to happen? Not if U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller, Joe Manchin and Jeff Bingaman can get their bill to renew the act passed. They, and our state's future, need the help of constituents. We suggest you to write or email congressional representatives and urge passage of school funding.