As state-funded agencies continue to sift through the proposed budget submitted by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice last week, it becomes clearer the few cuts made by the governor are meant to do more than reduce a little spending. For example, the elimination of $3.7 million in funding for Regional Education Service Agencies also appears to be intended to shift control away from local folks and back to Charleston, which would directly contradict the lip service Justice paid to local educators and administrators during his State of the State speech.
Money that would be cut from the budgets for RESAs “pays the executive director’s salary, the finance director’s salary, the professional development director’s salary, all the maintenance for the building …” said Joe Oliverio, executive director of RESA 5 in Parkersburg. Meanwhile, the majority of RESAs’ program funding comes from grants and other sources.
In other words, control of regional (local) education services would come from bureaucrats in Charleston. That would likely be used as an excuse to increase the size of the already corpulent bureaucracy in our capital. At the same time, decisions about Calhoun, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Tyler, Wirt and Wood counties — for RESA 5 — would no longer be made by those closest to and most familiar with the local school districts. But that administrative work would go on, in a state government that is supposed to be trimming down, not bulking up.
Oliverio and representatives of other RESAs across the state are asking for “a seat at the table” as lawmakers consider not only the governor’s budget cuts, but Senate Bill 181, calling for abolishment of all RESAs. Legislators should give them that opportunity. The spend-and-kick-the-can-down-the-road status quo cannot stand, and compromises will be necessary. But simply cutting off local control of vital services in favor of increasing control in Charleston is unacceptable.