CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An audit of West Virginia's public schools system that claims the Department of Education is overly bureaucratic and top-heavy with administrators is misleading, according to state Board of Education President Wade Linger.
The governor's $750,000 education-efficiency audit -- conducted by Pennsylvania-based consulting firm Public Works -- says the state's Department of Education employs 637 full-time positions.
According to the audit, more than 300 of the 637 positions are administrative and management staff overseeing the K-12 education system. However, Linger says the true, "core" number of administrative and management staff is only 43.
The audit served as a roadmap as Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin crafted his education reform bill. However, that bill, which Tomblin signed into law Wednesday, underwent major changes during the legislative process.
Linger dissected the numbers in a presentation for the school board Wednesday "to address the perception and narrative that the Department of Education is bloated."
"We certainly are not bloated," he said. "That's my position."
According to Linger, of the 319 employees that auditors labeled as "supervisory," only 265 actually work in the state department's offices at the Capitol. Only 149 of those employees' salaries are paid by the state, while the others receive federal support, Linger said.
"It makes no sense to consider that from a state perspective. That's not bloated bureaucracy. It just makes good sense to staff positions being paid with federal money," he said. "I would challenge anyone to make the argument that we should forgo those positions and the money that goes with it."
The number of administrative positions is even lower, he said, because some of the employees included in the audit's figures actually monitor counties or provide direct services to students and schools.
Auditors said the state could save more than $20 million over a five-year period if the education department decreased its number of administrative positions and put in place cross-department initiatives to reduce duplication of efforts.
The state's teachers' unions have voiced the same concern -- saying the bureaucracy at the state level is the education system's biggest problem, as it takes money away from the classroom.
At last month's board meeting, union representatives protested when the board approved its first-ever director of operations position, at a salary of $104,000.
Linger said that since June 2011, the department has eliminated 21 positions through vacancies, reductions and repurposing.