Then-Gov. Joe Manchin, meanwhile, considered erasing the agencies' funding from general tax revenues in 2005, arguing that they needed to make money from the services they provided. Tomblin has proposed $3.6 million in such funding for RESAs in his 2013-2014 state spending plan, a slight decline from the $3.9 million in the current budget.
Together, the RESAs have about 465 full-time employees this school year, according to Department of Education figures. One in four is a teacher; nearly as many are administrations. The agencies also have more than 100 support staffers, mostly teachers' aides and secretaries, and more than 80 listed as computer or electronic technicians
This session, House Republicans have pledged to shift as much control back to the 55 county school systems as possible. House Minority Leader Tim Armstead said that while GOP lawmakers await details from Tomblin's proposals, they don't necessarily agree with transferring resources from the state-level department to a mid-level bureaucracy.
The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia is among the critics of enlisting the RESAs to improve public schools as called for in response to the audit.
"The RESAS are already an added bureaucracy that takes money away from the classroom," AFT-WV Judy Hale said after Tomblin's State of the State address Wednesday. "This is simply going to increase that bureaucracy. I do not think that is a structure that will work."
Hale singled out Tomblin's push to ensure that teachers can pursue professional development within their counties and not have to travel to Charleston for such training. While supportive of that goal, she questions the proposal to offer that development through the regional agencies.
"Professional development needs to go back to the local level, but I want to see the details on how we're going to do that using RESAs."