CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Department of Education is giving county school administrators control of $7.6 million in technology funding with hopes of better tailoring to student needs.
By allowing each county school board to choose how the budget is distributed, both student and teacher performance could improve, said Joe Panetta, superintendent of finance for the Department of Education.
"This will give the county boards a lot more freedom so that they can expend the funds under their own purchasing procedures and choose when to spend the money and how to spend it," he said. "Before, purchases were made centrally through the state and counties had to submit requests."
Though the money is still regulated by the state's funding formula, this is the first time counties will directly receive it without going through several state procedures.
Many counties have already used up this cycle's portion of funding, which can be used for installing technology infrastructure and purchasing computers, laptops and tablets in addition to providing professional development, according to the state Department of Education.
But one superintendent told legislators last week that while the new policy offers much-needed local flexibility in schools, it's not enough.
"This will help us build our infrastructure and address broadband access and computer-to-student ratios, but there is still a central issue that allows the state to maintain control over data. It's something that goes under the radar that no one wants to talk about," said Randolph County Schools Superintendent Jim Phares said.
The issue, he said, is the West Virginia Education Information System, the state's standardized student data collection program that was implemented in 1990.
Phares claims the system is outdated and limits counties' choice of better software while creating extra work for staff.
"I think they should throw WVEIS in the Kanawha River. It's a last-generation platform that what we're doing just isn't practical," he said. "It's a huge waste of time for teachers and principals to count and verify, and training takes them out of the classroom.
"The expenses are ungodly," Phares said. "You have this hodgepodge of people entering data who innocently miscount a book, and there's this great investigation."