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Strayer Report

The 1945 Strayer Report recommended basic reforms in the delivery of public education in West Virginia. While many of the recommendations were left undone at the time, the process entailed a thorough discussion of state and county school administration. Some key reforms were enacted later, and significant additional funds were found for the schools.

As World War II concluded, West Virginia educators reported a range of problems, including discontinuation during the war of New Deal school enrichment programs and the fact that more than 50,000 school-age youths were not enrolled for school. The state legislature appointed an interim committee to address the needs of public education. In turn, the committee hired George D. Strayer, a retired Columbia University professor, to prepare an expert report.

Strayer reported that a basic problem was the lack of sufficient funds for education, while acknowledging the unlikelihood of raising adequate funds under existing tax policy. A key administrative recommendation of the Strayer Report was the restructuring of the state school board as a constitutional body with an appointed, rather than elected, state school superintendent. This guaranteed the opposition of W. W. Trent, the powerful state superintendent, even to the watered-down version proposed by the legislature in a 1946 constitutional amendment. The amendment was narrowly defeated when put to the voters.

Nonetheless, important changes were made in West Virginia education in the next several years. Despite Strayer’s pessimism as to resources, the legislature increased education funding by more than two-thirds in 1947. The state superintendent’s job was made appointive in 1958, removing that important position from electoral politics.