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The Legislature needs to fix library funding

THE state Supreme Court struck down a 1957 law that required the Kanawha County Board of Education to give a portion of its funding to the Kanawha County Public Library.

The problem was not just the $3 million a year the schools were forced to give the libraries, but also the loss of state funds this caused the school system under the state school aid formula.

But when the state Supreme Court righted the funding wrong, it blew a 40 percent hole in the Kanawha County Library's budget.

The ruling also raises questions in Berkeley, Hardy, Harrison, Raleigh, Ohio, Tyler, Upshur and Wood counties, where school boards help fund libraries.

These are holes the Legislature should find a way to plug. No one wants to shut down public libraries.

One suggestion is to force all 55 school boards in the state to help finance local library systems.

"The Supreme Court said that requiring boards of education to fund some libraries and not others is not constitutional,".Kanawha County Public Library Director Alan Engelbert told West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

"So one of the obvious solutions would be to say, 'Let's have all boards of education contribute to the funding of a library.'"

Libraries and schools should work together. However, they are separate entities. Libraries not only serve students, but adults and pre-schoolers as well.

One suggestion is to require all county boards of education to contribute 1 percent of their operating revenue to public libraries - a bit of a Rube Goldberg approach.

The state should not tax people in the name of one cause and then turn the money over to another agency, no matter how worthy libraries are.

Legislators should not complicate matters. The state Supreme Court made a wise decision.

Lawmakers should build upon it.


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