The public schools enroll 281,000 students: 91% White, 5% African American, and 1% Latino, with 52% living in poverty and 1% learning English. The State spends $11,257 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
"The Legislature shall provide, by general law, for a thorough and efficient system of free schools." W. Va. Const. art. XII, § 1.
"The Legislature shall foster and encourage, moral, intellectual, scientific and agricultural improvement." W. Va. Const. art. XII, § 12.
In 1979, in Pauley v. Kelly, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, the State’s highest court, held that education is a fundamental right and declared the State’s education financing system unconstitutional.
The Court interpreted the constitution, stating that, "We may now define a thorough and efficient system of schools: It develops, as best the state of education expertise allows, the minds, bodies and social morality of its charges to prepare them for useful and happy occupations, recreation and citizenship, and does so economically.” The Court recognized several legally enforceable elements in this definition including developing in every child their capacity for literacy, basic mathematics, knowledge of government, self-knowledge, and interests in the Arts. The Court also found that the constitution requires good physical facilities, instructional materials, personnel, and careful state and local supervision.
Plaintiffs returned to court in 1995, in Tomblin v. Gainer, alleging that the State had failed to remedy the violations found in Pauley. The trial court agreed, and in 1998, the Legislature revised the education funding system more substantially than it had in the 1980s.