CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- LEGISLATORS came and went this week. They'll be back in a month.
They recessed until Feb. 13, when Gov. Tomblin will deliver his State of the State speech.
State law gives a governor in the first year of a new term an extra month to prepare a budget for lawmakers to consider.
Tomblin has been working on his budget since last summer, but he was re-elected in November and his new term begins on Monday, Inauguration Day.
So he may not need the extra month, but we must all wait for the drama to unfold.
I say "drama" hopefully. The stakes are high this session.
There is always drama. After all, the 34 state senators, 100 delegates and supporting cast of staff members and lobbyists are people.
But this is not an election year, as last year was and next year will be. In 2014, all of the House seats and half the Senate seats will be on a ballot.
That will affect lawmakers' behavior. The election-year tendency is to avoid big change that might spark voter backlash.
As scary as change is, the deficits in education are scarier.
Education Week just issued its annual Quality Counts report. The West Virginia results held special irony.
Overall, we ranked well on the report, getting a "B-minus" as compared to the national average of C-plus.
But our overall grade was an average of marks in six categories. For student achievement in kindergarten through 12th grade, we got an "F."
Does anything else matter?
Actually, yes. The report says we fund our 55 county school systems more equitably than other states. We're also doing a good job of assessing students, even if the results are dismal.
But back to that "F" in achievement. This comes as no surprise.
Frustration over his inability to move the achievement needle caused former Gov. Joe Manchin to commission an audit of the state's public education system.
When Manchin left for the U.S. Senate and Tomblin took his place, he picked up on the audit.
The phrase "education audit" has been spoken, written and tweeted ad nauseam since the results were released a year ago. I hope that hasn't dulled the luster of its recommendations for deregulating schools and restoring local control and accountability, because they are spot on.
I'm envisioning a cartoon: Tomblin is clutching the audit, its pages well worn and dog-eared. A teachers union chief has grabbed the other side and is pulling it toward a dusty shelf crammed with expensive, long-forgotten studies of years past.