The state Board of Education plans to unveil its much-anticipated response to an audit of West Virginia's public education system today.
Released in January by nonprofit Public Works, the 154-page report outlines ways the state Department of Education can operate more efficiently and effectively.
The report outlines more than 50 recommendations at the state level that could cut more than $18 million the first year and more than $115 million over the next five years. It also proposes changes for county school systems and Regional Education Service Agencies (RESA) that could cut about $64 million annually.
Combined, the report states these changes would save the education system $90 million annually.
The board discussed its response to the audit in March at Stonewall Resort. After the meeting, the board asked the department to prepare a draft of a response. However, board President Wade Linger rejected the document because he thought it was "flavored" with the department's opinion and not necessarily the board's opinion.
Although Linger initially hoped to have the response ready by June, he said a lack of staff made it difficult for the board to compile such a large document. He lobbied for a board liaison to be hired to help write the response.
On Aug. 13 the department hired Donna Petudo, a former administrator from the department, at a cost of $350 a day.
In late May, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office announced it would hold a series of eight forums for the public to discuss the audit. Vision Shared received roughly $44,000 to coordinate the forums and write a report.
It released that report last week. The 20-page document reports who attended the forums, how the forums were conducted and what people deemed most important from the audit.
It says attendees supported increased collaboration on all levels of education and the business community, improved technology and distance learning and investment in teacher training. Attendees couldn't agree on more contentious issues, like mandating 180 days of instruction, teacher compensation or teacher evaluations.
"Based on facilitator observations a continuing dialogue among professional educators, parents, the business community, workforce development, and other stakeholders would be useful in building the necessary consensus for improving public education," the report states.
The audit breaks down its state-level recommendations into six categories: administration, facilities, human resources, transportation, ancillary services and regional coordination. Implementing more efficiencies for school construction projects is the single largest money-saver for the state - combining the state Office of Facilities with the School Building Authority and code changes would save the state more than $31 million over five years.