Every study ranks West Virginia students near the bottom in knowledge and standardized test scores. State schools are failing to prepare youths for the high-tech Information Age that is sweeping the planet. Future careers are uncertain for many of them.
State teacher unions won't accept any blame for this problem, and focus mostly on getting higher teacher pay and making it nearly impossible to remove unfit teachers.
A statewide education audit recommended giving local county school boards more control -- but county boards produced the current mess, and their schools frequently are seized for inferiority.
Tomblin's reform bill would weaken seniority as the chief factor in teacher hiring. Also, it would open the door for idealistic young Teach for America volunteers to fill West Virginia classroom vacancies. It would establish statewide full-day preschool for 4-year-olds. It would try to force counties to provide a full 180 days of instruction.
We aren't sure whether law changes can improve the state's poor learning levels -- but legislators must try.
Expanding Medicaid under America's new national health reform would provide care for 120,000 "working poor" West Virginians who now lack insurance. It would bring $500 million federal funds into the state and create about 6,000 jobs. Why, for heaven's sake, aren't state leaders grabbing this opportunity?
Finally, can legislators do anything to rescue vital county library systems now devastated by a state Supreme Court ruling that deprived them of school money?