Kanawha Board of Education won't have to help fund library

CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court has ruled that the Kanawha County Board of Education does not have to continue funding the Kanawha County library.

The court ruled Feb. 22 that a 1957 law that obligates nine school systems to turn over a portion of their budgets to help fund local libraries is unconstitutional. The ruling upheld two 2011 orders by Kanawha Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib.

Chief Justice Brent Benjamin dissented from the majority and will possibly file an opinion in the future. Justice Margaret Workman authored the majority’s opinion.

The legal battle began in 2003, when the board sued the state Department of Education to recover money it spent funding the library, and the Supreme Court held the law violated the board’s equal protection rights.

“The court held that to the extent that the state share of the basic education program was not increased to accommodate the Kanawha County BOE’s required diversion of the local share, it was being treated unequally,” Workman wrote.

“The court found no compelling state interest which justified the unequal treatment...

“However, rather than amending W. Va. Code § 18-9A-12, which sets forth the calculation of the State share, to require the state to increase its share to account for the Kanawha County BOE’s library funding obligation, the Legislature amended W. Va. Code § 18-9A-11 which governs calculation of a county’s local share.

“The Legislature seized upon the ‘non-school purpose’ language in the opinion and specifically incorporated reference to the Special Act Libraries and Counties into the Code section, setting forth specific findings that libraries serve a ‘legitimate school purpose.’”

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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