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Audit says W.Va. state school funding miscalculated

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A new audit says the West Virginia Department of Education has been miscalculating school district appropriations for the past seven years, underfunding 36 districts by a total of $51.7 million and overfunding 19 by $21.6 million during that time frame.

That means districts statewide were underfunded a net $30.1 million due to the department’s misreading of state law regarding how it was supposed to distribute dollars through the state aid funding formula, according to the report, which the Legislative Auditor’s Office presented to state lawmakers Sunday during interim legislative meetings.

Over the seven years, Kanawha County was underfunded the most of all West Virginia counties with a loss of about $5.3 million, or about $187 less per student than it was due. Last school year, Kanawha received $100,000 less than it was owed; in 2008-09, it received $2.5 million less.

The audit recommends the department start following the law in calculating the aid distributions, but also suggests the Senate Education Committee work with the rest of the Legislature to clarify the rules. Department officials, who also spoke to lawmakers Sunday in response to the audit, also say they want the Legislature to clarify the issue. The Legislature has already approved appropriations for the current fiscal year based off the department’s now-questioned calculations.

“We don’t agree that it’s a misinterpretation,” Joe Panetta, chief operations officer for the department, told the Gazette-Mail. “The law is not clearly written.”

“My four lawyers say the statute is plain English,” Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred told the newspaper…

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