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School system's gain is the library's loss

It appears that the state Supreme Court, in righting a historic wrong, has given the Kanawha County Board of Education almost $3 million more per year to spend on education.

Over five years, that's an additional $15 million.

So much for worrying about a capped excess levy producing catastrophic deficits.

But the righting of a wrong to the school system will have catastrophic effects on the Kanawha County

Public Library, which will lose about 40 percent of its annual funding.

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of that equally valued institution.

The school board has since 1957 been required to give the public library about 1.25 percent of its annual budget. Only nine of the state's 55 counties have been required to make such contributions.

But the Kanawha school system contended that under the state's school aid formula, the library funding requirement cost it millions in state funds from which its students would otherwise have benefited.

The state Supreme Court agreed that the 1957 law has had that effect.

"This changes the whole picture," said Pete Thaw, president of the school board. "No longer does the library board have a parasitic relationship with us."

That $3 million "will now be going back into the classrooms and into education - not to pay salaries at the library. They've been doing this to us for 56 years, and it's finally over."

But easing the Board of Education's problem puts the library in a very difficult position.

"Obviously, if you lose 40 percent of your funding when you're running an institution that's as widespread and significant as the library, it's going to have an impact," said Mike Albert, president of the library's board of directors.

It's really unfortunate that Thaw put the situation in harsh terms, because it needlessly complicates a situation that is simply a matter of mathematical fairness, not of good guys and bad guys.

There are no bad guys here.

Library board members are supposed to fight for the library. School board members are supposed to fight for schools.

Members of the library board should discuss the situation with the Kanawha County delegation to the Legislature. Members of the school board should help.

 


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