As the Kanawha County Board of Education contests aÂ well-publicized randomÂ drug testing case in U.S. federal court, the school system still hasÂ anotherÂ high-profile lawsuit on the dockets.
In October, school officials again asked aÂ Kanawha County Circuit judge to decide who isÂ responsible toÂ pay an annual fee toÂ the local library. The case is pending beforeÂ Circuit Judge Irene Berger.
ByÂ July 2008,Â legal fees overÂ six years in theÂ libraryÂ case had cost more than $120,000. Attorney James K. Brown has sinceÂ continued workÂ on theÂ case. Â Â Â
The Kanawha school board’s suitÂ names the state Board of Education and State Superintendent Steve Paine as defendants, and argue thatÂ both are obligated to “administer the financing of the public schools” in West Virginia.
In recent years, Kanawha County schools have paid more than $2.5 million each year to the Kanawha County Public Library. A special act of the Legislature in 1957Â mandatedÂ a portion of regular tax levy revenue be used to support the public library.
School board members first sued over the issue in 2003, sayingÂ the special act is unfair. They argued the state counted money dedicated to the library as part of the school board’s funds, qualifying Kanawha County schools for less money under the state school aid formula and effectivelyÂ shortchanging its students.
A circuit judge ruled against the school board, but the Supreme Court overturned that decision in December 2006 and told lawmakers to fix the problem with the school aid formula.Â
ToÂ correct the problem, lawmakers in 2007Â freed up more money for all county school boards. Library officials have said they believe the Legislature solved the problem. School board members disagreed, and said thatÂ because every county received more money, an inequity remained. Â Â Â Â Â
Lawyers for the state Department of Education have pored over the Kanawha school board’s newestÂ lawsuit to see if there are anyÂ facts to dispute, Kanawha general counsel Jim Withrow has said.
In the coming weeks, he expects the state board to file a motion for summary judgmentÂ in an attemptÂ to dismiss the case. Â Â Â Â
State Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro has said the agency does not comment on pending court cases. Â Â