CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If hundreds of pages of public-school legislation educated a young mind, West Virginia would long ago have surpassed Shanghai in student achievement.
To the contrary, legislative enactments every year for the past 23 years have not improved student performance in this state. It remains among the lowest in the United States on national and international assessments.
Yet, policymakers and some of the public continue to put faith in the legislative process -- that in the 24th consecutive year of trying, the public-school legislation now proposed is different and will this time increase student achievement.
"Insanity: Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results." -- Albert Einstein
We should discard the notion based on over two decades of experience that annually adding "bits and pieces" to an already cluttered education code will bring about the desired result, when, in fact, the yearly routine does little more than create a false impression of accomplishing something.
The state has a repairing-patching mentality about its public school system, the same thought process that would lead us to take the easier path of fixing an old house with a crumbling foundation instead of building a new one on a more solid foundation.
Public-school legislation, enacted over the past several decades, is found in chapters 18 and 18A of the State Code, consisting of hundreds of pages of irrational and in many instances outdated, minute and incomprehensible content.
These pages contain numerous archaic provisions that called for actions to be completed many years ago, such as in 1990, 1993, 1995 and 1996, or that set education goals based on a series of town meetings held 23 years ago, in the summer of 1990.
The Legislature has imposed some 70 mandates and restrictions upon the West Virginia Board of Education, which may account, at least in significant part, for the large volume of board policies and the size of the Department of Education, which have been criticized.
The Legislature has established or directed establishment of dozens of departments, boards, processes, councils, etc., to administer the public school system.
Among them are the Department of Education with a K-12 staff in excess of 300; a second Department of Education, known as the Department of Education and the Arts (as though one agency is not enough), with a staff of 14, and its claimed agency, the Center for Professional Development, with a staff of 16; and eight regional education service agencies (RESAs) with total staffs of 480, ranging from 17 in RESA 2 to 131 in RESA 8.