Public school advocates in West Virginia have long voiced sharp criticism over the state's funding of education-and justifiably so. Although more than one in four West Virginia children live in poverty, the state's school funding formula does not account for the increased costs associated with educating low-socioeconomic status ("SES") students. As a result, low-SES students are not receiving a constitutionally adequate and equitable education, by the state's own standards.
Now, in the wake of COVID-19, with mounting costs and challenges, allegations of "inadequacy" and "inequity" abound. Ifpast is prologue, districts that serve high concentrations of low-SES students will be the most impacted by inevitable budget shortfalls following the pandemic and any economic downturn. As counterintuitive as it sounds, however, COVID-19 actually provides West Virginia with a unique opportunity to adopt more equitable and adequate funding formula. Indeed, the timing is, in some respects, ideal, as multiple states-including West Virginia-have used past crises to revise their funding formulas, to improve educational equity and outcomes.
To seize this opportunity, this Article proposes that West Virginia make a permanent commitment to provide additional, targeted funding for low-SES students or increased funding for districts with high concentrations of low-SES students, following a two-prong approach: First, the state should conduct an adequacy cost study to determine how much funding each district needs to provide an adequate and equitable education. Second, the state should transition from a resource-based funding formula to either a student-based or hybrid formula.
Lauren Trumble, In the Eye of the Storm: West Virginia's Uniquely Clear Opportunity to Revise Its Education Funding Formula during COVID-19, 124 W. Va. L. Rev. 523 (2022).