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WV Educators See Dire Need for More Federal Funding for Schools

West Virginia is looking for more federal funding to support the shift to online learning in schools. (Adobe Stock)
West Virginia is looking for more federal funding to support the shift to online learning in schools. (Adobe Stock)
June 25, 2020

CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- Even before the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns, West Virginia's state government was facing a serious budget shortfall. Now, teachers are pushing the federal government to pass more pandemic funding to fill an even bigger gap because of COVID-19.

Tonya Rinehart, a reading specialist who teaches in Harrison County, says the Mountain State's revenue loss during the pandemic has been dire, especially for the Department of Education. She notes that costs ran high to switch students to online learning, in a state where many rural families have limited internet access.

"While the CARES Act was able to subtract and help a little bit, particularly in West Virginia -- where we have some of the higher poverty rates -- we need that support from the federal level to support our education system," Rinehart says.

She says the HEROES Act, which was introduced in the U.S. House last month, could provide much-needed funding for more computers and school lunches. It also would keep teachers and support staff from losing their jobs in a public-school system that ranks 41st in the nation.

In addition to the coronavirus, West Virginia was hit hard by the opioid epidemic, which has left about 7,000 children in foster care -- the highest number ever for the state.

According to Rinehart, those children need specialized help that could disappear because of potential budget cuts.

"The foster-care issue is tremendous, and we certainly need more funding to support families," she insists. "We need more funding to support our children that will need some mental-health services."

The Learning Policy Institute reports that the $2 trillion CARES Act sent $14 billion to public schools across the country, which is far less than 1% of the total.

The same report concludes that the HEROES Act, or any other future stimulus bill, is likely to determine public-school funding for years to come.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV