Teachers, Students And School Officials Say End Of Forest Money’ Funding Could Be Devastating
Marlinton, WV – Christine Campbell, President of the American Federation of Teachers in Pocahontas County and a teacher at Marlinton Middle school eloquently summed up what the loss the forest money could mean to the county during a meeting about the funding Tuesday night in Marlinton.
“As far as how this affects us in Pocahontas County, we’ve talked about the numbers, but what we’re really looking at is the number of teachers, the number of people educating your students,” says Campbell. “We need the public to get involved because the teachers can do it, the reps can do it, but like Senator Helmick said, we really need to let our [Washington D.C.] reps know how important this is to our county because it has been acknowledged as a western issue’ and I don’t think people are aware of how important it is to this state, especially to Pocahontas and Randolph County. We could stand to lose 10 professionals because of the loss of this money.”
Those comments were echoed by other school officials like Eddie Campbell, the new Superintendent of Tucker County schools. Like Pocahontas, he says the loss of the forest money would be devastating to Tucker County.
“I can give you a really brief statement on how that’s going to impact us – it hurts and it hurts alot!,” he says. “This money goes directly into our general operating fund and it basically pays the bills; it keeps the lights on, it keeps the heat on in our buildings. I asked our treasurer when we started discussion how this would impact us and he said this is going to be a big blow to us. He said I don’t know how we’re going to keep our head above water without this money.”
JP Mallory, Treasurer for Pendleton County schools says both his county and Pocahontas greatly benefitted from changes made to the state school funding formula a couple of years ago. However, he says the loss of the forest money would still be keenly felt by Pendleton County schools.
“With personnel, I’m not sure we can say that we’re going to have to cut 2,3,4 persons if we lose forest land money,” he says. “We get $120,000.00 a year right now in forest money; if we cut that back to 50 or 60 thousand or even gets reduced back to zero, I’m not sure what we would do.”
For Randolph County, the loss of the forest money could mean a loss of professional personnel and a dramatic decrease in funding for other proven school programs. Reta Griffith, who has been involved with SRS from the beginning, explains what could happen if they bill doesn’t get reauthorized.
“This bill was enacted to stabilize the payments,” she says. “What will happen across the nation is that we will go back to revenue sharing, 25% of what is collected off of forest revenues, which in most of our counties is timber harvest; sometimes you might get them, sometimes you won’t.”
Many students in the audience asked teachers to talk to them about this issue and include them in this grassroots campaign. All County residents are encouraged to contract our West Virginia legislators and ask for their support.