The West Virginia Pauley v. Bailey decision: an historical perspective

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


In 1979, the West Virginia Supreme Court remanded to the trial court the highly controversial Pauley v. Bailey decision. Subsequently, the trial court judge, Arthur Recht, following the specific instructions of the Supreme Court, ruled the public school finance system unconstitutional. Justice Recht ordered the West Virginia Legislature to develop a state system for funding the public schools that would comply with the constitutional mandate to provide a system of public schools that was "thorough and efficient" (West Virginia Constitution Art. 13 Section 1). Thus, West Virginia joined six other states that have ruled their state systems for financing public schools violative of their respective state constitutions. The purpose of this study was to identify the historical circumstances affecting the public school finance system which ultimately led to the Pauley decision. In addition, the study traced and chronicled the legislative and judicial attempts to implement Pauley through the end of the West Virginia Legislature in 1984.