The pro-levy forces were out in force yesterday, with students, parents, and teachers gathered in Berkeley Springs State Park, urging early voters to vote for the excess school levy.
The rally attracted the attention of the local television station — NBC-25 in Hagerstown.
This did not impress Jeannie Ford, leader of the anti-levy forces — and wife of Morgan County Commission Bob Ford.
Ford dismisses the the pro-levy forces as “people with an agenda.”
For example, when asked about County Commission candidate Joel Tuttle (R) coming out forcefully for the levy, Ford says that Tuttle has an agenda.
What would that be?
“His wife works for the school system,” Ford says. “If the levy loses, she’ll lose her bonus, as they all will. They all have an agenda.”
But doesn’t Jeannie Ford have an agenda?
Yes, she does.
“Our agenda is that we are not going to be paying these big bonuses,” Ford says.
No levy amount is good enough for Jeannie Ford.
How about a 50 percent levy?
She says that there are counties in West Virginia that have no levy and that do better academically than Morgan County.
Ford dismisses signs of a close race, predicting that the levy will lose by the same margin it lost last year — 56 percent to 44 percent.
What about word on the street that the Greenwood School district for example, which voted against the levy last time, will vote for it this time?
At first Ford says — people in Greenwood aren’t going to tell anyone how they are going to vote.
Then she says — if the Greenwood district votes for the levy, it’s because they were told that if they vote against the levy, their school would be closed.
Ford says that she knows people in Paw Paw who voted for the levy last time, but will vote against it this time.
She won’t name names.
Ford says her group will not be sending out mailers to every household in the county, as the pro-levy forces did last week.
Not enough money?
“We have enough money,” Ford said. “But people just throw those things in the trash, they don’t even read them. I get them from Ken Reed all the time. It goes in the trash.”
Instead, Ford is preparing her ad for next week’s Morgan Messenger.
“We’re fighting two battles,” Ford says. “We have to fight the schools. And we have to fight the Morgan Messenger, which is for the levy.”
Ford said her next ad will reprint an article from the April 16 edition of the Messenger titled “How the state’s school aid formula affects Morgan County,” by Amy Willard, executive director, of the West Virginia Office of School Finance.
In the article, Willard says that the amount of state school funding “varies based on the experience and educational levels of the personnel actually employed by each district.”
“Since teachers with additional years of experience and more advanced college degrees earn a higher salary, the funding formula is designed to cover those additional costs,” Willard writes. “This allows districts to encourage teachers to continue their employment and to earn higher degree levels. For the 2013-14 year, Morgan County Schools’ average state funded professional educator salary ranked 55th in the state, which indicates that it had one of the least experienced staff with lower educational attainment among the districts. Morgan County’s average state funded salary was only $39,922 compared to the state average of $42,329.”
Ford says Morgan County is dead last in the state.
“Our teachers are not educated,” Ford says. “If the teachers and the staff want more money, go back to school and get your degree.”
There are people on both sides of the debate who agree that school funding should not be based on local property taxes, but instead should be handled at the state level, through a progressive state income tax.
“That’s right,” Ford says. “But if you think you are going to get (Delegate) Daryl Cowles (R) down there to support that, you have another thing coming.”