May 14, 1982: Court Decision Brings Sweeping Changes to West Virginia's Public Education System


On May 14, 1982, Judge Arthur Recht handed down a legal ruling that reshaped the course of public education in West Virginia.

The case had started in 1975, when Janet Pauley filed a class-action suit against the Lincoln County school system. She claimed that her children were not receiving a ‘‘thorough and efficient’’ standard of education, as required by the West Virginia Constitution. The state Supreme Court ruled in her favor on appeal, saying that all children have a right to a quality public education regardless of where they live. The justices remanded the case to Circuit Court to determine whether West Virginia’s school system met the standard of a high-quality system. In 1982, Circuit Court Judge Recht ruled that the state’s funding system caused financial inequities from county to county.

The state Department of Education responded with a new master plan, which was never fully implemented. However, the Recht Decision did lead to sweeping changes in public education. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on new facilities and curriculum, and the school aid formula was modified to provide a more equitable distribution of funds to counties.