CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Student enrollment continues to decline at West Virginia’s public schools, according to information Dr. Steve Paine, the state superintendent of schools, presented to members of the state Board of Education Wednesday.

The numbers, compared with the past 15 years, were included in his state Department of Education Year In Review for 2018-2019.

See the full report HERE.

In all, 265,755 students were enrolled in 691 public schools in West Virginia’s 55 counties during the last school year.

“We’d like that number to go up. It was 284,000 when I was here the first time,” Paine told the BOE.

While overall enrollment has dropped, the number of public school students in foster care has almost doubled since 2000, Paine reported, due to the opioid epidemic and other factors.

All of those factors affect student achievement.

Ahead of the release of the latest student achievement data soon, Paine said he’s told county superintendents they must adopt a “no excuses” mentality.

“We already know more than we need to know to teach all of those students,” Paine said.

For him, the past year has been dominated by “obstacles and distractions.”

Going forward, Paine said he would be focused on student performance at a time when public education accounts for 42.5 percent of West Virginia’s general revenues, down from just more than 54 percent in 2000.

“We’re grateful for the funding we’ve received from the Legislature. We appreciate that. This was a good year for education funding in HB 206 (the education reform law),” Paine said.

“There are lot of good things in that bill, one of which was funding for districts for small schools. The amount of money that was put in there for social, emotional and mental health needs of children — $30 million — that’s phenomenal. That’s a real commitment to making sure that we address those needs of those kids.”

The state Department of Education held a series of public forums earlier this year called West Virginia’s Voice to gather input on that education reform legislation.

“We’d like to suggest that you follow up on that this year and that you go out and you host your forums and go to the public and have a continued dialogue with regard to public education,” Paine told the BOE.

“We think that would be really important for us to sustain that.”

During his presentation Wednesday, Paine highlighted successes in areas like Math4Life, National Board teacher certifications and child nutrition.

During the past two years, he noted, the total number of BOE policies have been reduced by 21 percent.

“That’s the trend and so we are trying to push more flexibility to the local level,” said Paine.

Existing policies may need to be modified to fully implement the education reform law.

Overall, BOE members responded positively to the Year In Review.

“We’ve got a ways to go, but we’re on the right track,” said Miller Hall, state BOE vice president.

County system school openings for the 2019-2020 school year continue across West Virginia through Sept. 3.

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