Audit: Kill Autonomy of Regional Education Service Agencies

By Quinn, Ryan | Charleston Gazette Mail, December 7, 2016 | Go to article overview

Audit: Kill Autonomy of Regional Education Service Agencies


Quinn, Ryan, Charleston Gazette Mail


A newly publicized legislative audit recommends taking away "all autonomy and independence from West Virginia's eight Regional Education Service Agencies - the multi-county organizations that are supposed to aid county public school systems - and transferring the agencies' power and employees to the state Department of Education. Officials from RESAs, which help school systems save money by allowing them to share needed services, such as speech pathologists and other specialized employees, strongly disagreed with the audit's conclusions.

Tuesday's report was the latest in a line of reviews of the agencies over the years. The report did include a survey of West Virginia school superintendents; 34 out of the 55 responded, and 25 of the respondents said they felt there would be "significant adverse effects if RESAs were discontinued.

"There is significant overlap of state involvement in RESA activities and plans, John Sylvia, director of the Performance Evaluation and Research Division of the Legislative Auditor's Office, told lawmakers Tuesday. The report was presented to an interim legislative meeting of the joint standing committees on education, government organization and government operations.

"The State Board of Education should consider administering the regional service purpose through regional staff of the Department of Education as opposed to regional agencies, the report states. "Therefore, all autonomy and independence of RESAs should be effectively eliminated, and RESA staff should come under the Department.

Sylvia said the report, which took 12 months to develop, suggests maintaining RESAs' regional councils, which currently help lead those agencies, as powerless advisory boards.

He said the report recommends paring the councils' memberships down to just the school superintendents of the counties in each RESA in order to save money on things like council member transportation and the $100 payments per meeting. The councils currently include teachers, principals and others.

The report doesn't include how much the state could save annually by getting rid of the alleged duplicative RESA services, but Sylvia suggested a minimum of $1.5 million annually, including nearly $1 million just through eliminating the positions of the eight RESA executive directors. …

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