www.wvgazette.com http://www.wvgazette.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Funerals for: January 30, 2015 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT01/301309973 OBIT01 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT01/301309973 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:02:49 -0500 Adams, Chauncey Jr. 1 p.m., House of Prayer, Dingess.

Casto, Anna D. 2:30 p.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.

Cox, Mildred 1 p.m., Morgan Funeral Home, Lewisburg.

Edwards, Glenna J. 1 p.m., Cooke Funeral Home Chapel, Cedar Grove.

Fritz, Martha 12:30 p.m., St. Paul Lutheran Church, Huntington.

Kinder, Robert L. 11 a.m., Cunningham

King, Parthenia L. 1 p.m., Raynes Funeral Home, Buffalo.

Legg, Rickie C. 11 a.m., Wallace & Wallace Funeral Home, Lewisburg.

McCumbers, Lester V. 1 p.m., Stump Funeral Home, Arnoldsburg.

Morrison, Barbara 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Pleasant, Eugene Sr. 11 a.m., Ebenezer Baptist Church, Charleston.

Polin, Esther J. 1 p.m., Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, Reedy.

Robinson, Darrell V. 1 p.m., West Virginia Memorial Gardens, Calvin.

Rose, Janet L. 11 a.m., Stockert

Taylor, Johnnie D. 2 p.m., Tyree Funeral Home, Oak Hill.

Waugh, Billie J. 6 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Welling, Florence I. 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

White, Rev. Ernest L. Sr. 2 p.m., Spring Fork Missionary Baptist Church, Charleston.

Marlene Taylor Bess http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309999 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309999 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:02:19 -0500 Marlene Taylor Bess, 74, of Tornado and Clearwater, Fla., went home to be with the Lord on Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015 at Morton Plant Hospital, Clearwater, Fla.

Born Sept. 15, 1940 in Duck to the late Joe and Nettie Bragg Taylor.

She was a retired floral designer and a member of Gateway Christian Church, St. Albans. She was a graduate of St. Albans High School, class of 1959.

Marlene leaves behind to cherish wonderful memories her husband, Burl E. Bess; daughter and son-in-law, Jacqueline and Mike Lekas; step-grandson and wife, Corey and Jessica Lekas; step-granddaughters, Gracie and Taylor Lekas, the loves of her life; sister, Charlotte Templeton of Tornado; and brother and sister-in-law, Ronnie and Glenda Taylor of Indian Head, Md. Also surviving are many nieces and nephews and cousins.

Memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, at Bartlett-Chapman Funeral Home, St. Albans, with Pastor David Bragg officiating. Friends may call one hour prior to the memorial service.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations be made to Gateway Christian Church, 422 B St., St. Albans, WV 25177.

You may share memories or condolences with the family at www.chapmanfuneralhomes.com.

Bartlett-Chapman Funeral Home, family-owned and located at 409 Sixth Ave., St. Albans, is honored to serve the Bess family.

Katherine Ann Bowling http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309990 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309990 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:02:32 -0500 Katherine Ann Erwin Bowling, 71, of Austin, Texas, was called to her Heavenly home on Jan. 27, 2015 surrounded by her family in Midland, Texas, after a hard-fought battle with brain cancer.

Katherine was born Feb. 19, 1943 in Charleston, W.Va., to Arling H. "Bud" and Melva Erwin. She was a 1961 graduate of St. Albans High School and a graduate of Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va. She married William "Ed" Bowling in 1965 and they began their life together in Huntsville, Ala., later welcoming a daughter, Karen. The family moved to Austin, Texas, in 1977.

Kathy launched and developed the Westwood Community School in Northwest Austin, offering continuing education to adults and children in the area. Her success with continuing education allowed her to also open and direct campuses for Austin Community College and Texas State University at Westwood High School. She enriched the lives of many with the educational programs she provided.

As successful as she was in her career, she was even better at being a lovely person. Kathy was a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend. She had a contagious smile, a caring heart and a great sense of fun that will be dearly missed and fondly remembered.

Left to cherish her memory are her loving husband of 49 years, William "Ed" Bowling; daughter, Karen Ann Bowling Sparks and husband, Todd, of Midland, Texas; grandchildren, Will, Laura Kate and Libby Ann Sparks, of Midland, Texas; sister, Constance S. Erwin of Midland, Texas; brother, Dwight Randal Erwin and wife, Terri, and daughter, Samantha, of Villa Hills, Ky.; sister-in law, Dianne Bellomy and husband, Lacy, of Winston-Salem, N.C.; sister-in-law, Gloria Tribou and husband, Dick, of Satellite Beach, Fla.; and four nieces and one nephew. She was preceded in death by her parents, Arling H. "Bud" and Melva Erwin, and infant daughter, Elizabeth Bowling.

The family will be accepting guests from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, at Nalley-Pickle & Welch Funeral Home in Midland, Texas. Graveside service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, at Resthaven Memorial Park, Midland, Texas. A memorial service will be held at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin on Friday, Feb. 13, at 1 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Midland Fair Havens, 2400 Whitmire Blvd. #100, Midland, TX 79705 or Hospice of Midland, 911 West Texas Ave., Midland, TX 79701.

Arrangements are under the direction of Nalley-Pickle & Welch Funeral Home & Crematory. Online condolences can be made at www.npwelch.com.

William M. Bryant http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309975 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309975 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:02:48 -0500 William McKinley "Bill" Bryant, 85, of Alderson, died Jan. 27, 2015. Service will be 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, at Old Greenbrier Baptist Church, Alderson, with visitation beginning one hour prior. Arrangements by Lobban Funeral Home, Alderson.

Cleo Elizabeth Burns http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309993 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309993 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:02:30 -0500 Cleo Elizabeth Jordan Burns, 88, of St. Albans, went home to be with the Lord on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 at her residence with her family by her side.

Born Jan. 29, 1926 in St. Albans to the late Raymond and Anna Oxley Jordan. She was preceded in death by her husband, Boyd Cecil Burns, and her infant son, Herbert David Burns, along with three sisters and one brother.

She was a homemaker and a faithful servant of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church for over 50 years, where she taught Sunday school and touched many children's lives.

She is survived by her daughters and sons-in-law, Doris and Gary Dunlap of Scott Depot and Mitzi and Bob Peters of Hurricane; sons- and daughters-in-law, Cecil R. and Betty Burns of Dunbar, Rex A. and Annette Burns and Warren and Annette Burns, all of Tornado; and brother, Ronald Jordan of Scott Depot. Also surviving are 11 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

Funeral service will be held at noon Saturday, Jan. 31, at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, 7398 Smith Creek Road, St. Albans, with the Rev. Fred Connery and the Rev. Benny Bess officiating. Burial will follow in Pleasant Hill Baptist Church Cemetery, St. Albans.

Friends may call two hours prior to the funeral service at the church.

The family would like to give a special thanks to Joan, Sharon and Melinda with Kanawha Hospice for all of their help and loving care they showed to their mother over the last few months.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Hospice Care, 1606 Kanawha Blvd. W., Charleston, WV 25387.

You may share memories or condolences with the family at www.chapmanfuneralhomes.com.

Bartlett-Chapman Funeral Home, family owned and located at 409 Sixth Ave., St. Albans, is honored to serve the Burns family.

Lillian Marie Comer http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309989 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309989 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:02:32 -0500 Lillian Marie Comer, 91, of St. Albans, met our Lord in heaven on Jan. 28, 2015 at Valley Center, South Charleston.

She was born May 30, 1923 in Jackson County, the daughter of Carless and Hazel Presley Kiser. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her loving husband of 62 years, Jonathan "Jay" Comer; son, Harold Richard "Rick" Comer; brothers, Herbert, Joseph and James Kiser; and sisters, Bonnie Fisher and Phyllis Shugg.

She is survived by her son, Jeremiah Jay "Jerry" Comer Sr. and his wife, Linda, of St. Albans; daughter-in-law, Vickey Comer of San Jose, Calif.; brother, Neal Kiser, of Pomeroy, Ohio; eight grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren.

Lillian was a member of Grace Baptist Church, St. Albans, and was a witness to others about Christ, even in her last days. A loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and sister who will be missed by all who knew her.

Celebration of Lillian's life will be at noon Saturday, Jan. 31, at Casdorph & Curry Funeral Home, St. Albans, with Pastor Bradley Goodwin officiating. Burial will follow in Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.

Gathering of family and friends will be Saturday from 10 a.m. until time of service.

Online condolences can be sent to the family at www.casdorphandcurry.com.

Jim "Papa" Ferguson http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309988 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309988 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:02:33 -0500 Jim "Papa" Ferguson, 67, of Delbarton, died Jan. 28, 2015. Service will be 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, at Evans Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Chapmanville. Visitation will be 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, at the funeral home.

Brenda Kay Francis http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309978 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309978 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:02:44 -0500 Brenda Kay Francis, 55, of South Charleston, died Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 at CAMC Memorial Hospital. She was retired from the Rite-Aid warehouse with 21 years of service and was a former employee of Kroger in South Charleston. Brenda attended Landmark Church of God, Nitro, and was a loving and devoted wife, mother, sister and friend.

Surviving are her husband, Donald Francis; son, Jesse Reed; stepsister, Samantha Francis; mother, Mary Jane Kersey; brother, Robert Childress; and twin sisters, Susie and Sharon Smith.

Service will be 1 p.m. Saturday at Good Shepherd Mortuary, South Charleston, with the Rev. B.J. Roberts officiating. Burial will be in Childress Cemetery, South Charleston.

Friends may call from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the mortuary.

Carletta Sue Harper http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309982 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309982 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:02:39 -0500 Carletta Sue Harper, 71, of East Bank, passed away Jan. 28, 2015 at CAMC General after a long illness.

Carletta retired from Appalachian Regional Hospital and was a member of American Legion Auxiliary Post 73, St. Albans. She was a member of the Gold Star Wives of America and attended the First Baptist Church of Chesapeake.

Preceded in death by parents, John and Mary Jane Key; husband, Ira Eugene Harper; brothers, John William Key Jr. and James Howard Key; nephews, James Key II and Logan Key; niece, Kimberly Evans; brothers-in-law, Lawrence Via and Randy Lambert; and sister-in-law, Sharon Key.

Left to cherish her memory are sons, Ralph Allen Harper (Kay Millsaps Harper) of Taylorsville, N.C., and Leslie Wayne Harper (fiancee, Michelle Wills) of East Bank; granddaughters, Morgan Leigh Church of Man and Greenlee Marie Harper of East Bank; sisters, Gloria Frye (Roger) of St. Albans and Damaris Lynn Lambert of Charleston; and brothers, Donald Key (Sheree) of Shady Spring and Samuel Key (Diane) of Princeton.

Service will be 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 1, at the First Baptist Church of Chesapeake with Pastor John Reed officiating. Burial will follow in Kanawha Valley Memorial Gardens, Glasgow.

A gathering of family and friends will be 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the church.

Condolences may be sent by visiting www.pryorfh.com.

Juanita Harriman http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309986 OBIT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/OBIT/301309986 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:02:35 -0500 Juanita Harriman, 74, of Caldwell, Ohio, died Jan. 26, 2015. Service will be 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, at Freeman Funeral Home, Chapmanville. Visitation will be 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, at the funeral home.

PREP ROUNDUP: Hurricane girls top rival Winfield in OT http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM03/150139980 DM03 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM03/150139980 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:01:00 -0500 FROM STAFF REPORTS

Hurricane battled from behind in the second half to force an overtime period before pulling out a 59-54 win against visiting Winfield in high school girls basketball play Thursday. The win snapped a two-game losing skid for the Redskins.

Abby Watson, who finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds for Hurricane, tied the game with a layup at the buzzer to force the extra period.

Maddy Weeks contributed 13 points for Hurricane, while Kaylee Wooten added 11.

For Winfield (3-12), Haylea Roberson and Rachel Kraschewski netted 15 points apiece, followed by Cheyenne Sawyers with 13.

George Washington 76, Brooke 34 - Shi Banks scored 22 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots to help the Patriots (8-4) advance to Saturday's co-championship game of the Big Atlantic Classic at the Raleigh County Convention Center.

George Washington, which jumped to a 27-5 first quarter lead in winning its third straight, also received 21 points and 11 rebounds from Maria Romeo.

The Patriots will face Class AAA No. 6 St. Albans (12-4), which advanced to the co-championship with a Wednesday night win over previously unbeaten and Class AA top-ranked Wyoming East. Tip off is slated for 7:20 p.m.

Elk Valley Christian 69, Valley 45 - Hannah Williams scored 28 points to lead the Eagles (14-6) to the road win.

Katie Burdette added 18 points for Elk Valley, followed by Anna Oxley with 14.

For Valley, Abby Buchan scored a team-high 16 points.

Chapmanville 48, Poca 45 - Molly Collins hit seven 3-point shots on the way to scoring 27 points in leading the Tigers to the road win. For Poca, Abby Marcum scored 14 points and Hillary Hainer added 12.

Lincoln County 70, Ripley 75 - Lindsey Prichard's 37 points helped lead the Panthers (6-9) to the road win. Rachel Pennington added 10 points for Lincoln County, while Alyssa Adkins chipped in with 10 points.

For Ripley (5-11), Audra Thomas netted 31 points, while Maggie Criser added 11.

Community briefs for Friday, Jan. 30 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM01/150139981 DM01 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM01/150139981 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:01:00 -0500

A free Super Bowl watch party will be held Sunday at the LaBelle Theater, 311 D St. in South Charleston. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the game begins at 6:30. Everyone is welcome to come watch the game on the big screen. Bring your own food and drinks. No alcohol, please. For more information, call 304-746-5552.

Preceptor Alpha chapter of Beta Sigma Phi International Sorority will meet Monday at Canaan United Methodist Church, 401 Roane St. in Charleston. President Suzanne Haynes will conduct the business meeting. Ann Henderson will present the program. Refreshments will be served after the business meeting. Service is containers for Manna Meals, tabs for Ronald McDonald house and magazines for the VA clinic/hospital.

The Kanawha Valley Coin Club will hold its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the South Charleston Library. The public is invited. For more information, visit www.kvcc.eznetway.com or call 304-727-4062.

FestivALL's 3rd annual "FeastivALL" fundraiser will take place at 6 p.m. Feb. 28 at Berry Hills Country Club.

Food will be prepared by noted chefs Paco Aceves, of Berry Hills Country Club, and Paul Smith, corporate chef at Buzz Food Service, along with the Berry Hills staff. Guests will enjoy five courses, each paired with a fine wine and craft beer chosen by John Brown (wine) and Rich Ireland (beer), Charleston's top beverage consultants and columnists for the Charleston Gazette. There will also be items for silent auction including vacation opportunities, performances by well-known local artists and more.

Tickets are available at www.festivallcharleston.com or by calling 304-470-0489.

To submit an item, send it by email to yournews@dailymailwv.com, fax it to 304-348-4847 or mail it to Community Briefs, Charleston Daily Mail, 1001 Virginia Street East, Charleston, WV 25301.

Man's lawsuit asking to legally smoke pot dismissed http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/GZ01/150139982 GZ01 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/GZ01/150139982 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:01:00 -0500

Catholic school system remains one of state's largest http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM01/150139983 DM01 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM01/150139983 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:01:00 -0500 By Samuel Speciale Despite decades of steady enrollment declines in Catholic schools around the nation, West Virginia's Department of Catholic Schools remains one of the largest school systems in the state.

The network of 27 elementary and high schools isn't as large as it once was, but it still enrolls nearly 5,700 students and employs more than 500 teachers and staff. If included among West Virginia's public school districts, the Catholic school system would have the 15th-highest enrollment.

While the private schools offer a faith-based curriculum and primarily serve Catholic families, not all come from within the church.

Bryan Minor, spokesman for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, which oversees the Catholic school system in West Virginia, said nearly a third of enrolled students are of a different faith.

"It's that diversity that makes Catholic schools special," he said.

In addition to having a number of belief systems represented, Catholic schools in West Virginia also have a unique blend of what Minor calls "legacy" students and transfers.

"Some of our students, like their parents and grandparents, come here from elementary to high school," Minor said. "Some start here and then go to public high school, and others turn to us when they need an alternative that offers individualized attention or faith-based education."

Catholic schools in West Virginia have about a 10 to 1 student-teacher ratio, and while they cover many of the same things taught in public schools, curricula is shaped to meet the needs of individual schools.

Minor said having a smaller network of schools allows for more innovation, which he said leads to "superior academic results."

While the average Catholic school student often scores higher than their public school counterpart on state assessments and college entrance exams, Minor said the system's commitment to "gospel values" and "bearing witness to Christ's love" are what make Catholic education in West Virginia special.

"For us, we feel that's what really separates us from other institutions in the state," he said.

Other benefits Minor outlined are the system's high graduation rate, classroom use of technology and parental involvement.

As for the future, Minor said West Virginia's Catholic schools will soon see an influx of foreign-born Chinese students enrolled in their school thanks to a partnership that also will bring in language specialists to teach students Mandarin.

"That's a game changer for our students," Minor said.

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston also offers $850,000 in tuition assistance and scholarships to low-income families.

This week is National Catholic Schools Week, which is a celebration of Catholic education in the United States. While recognized across the country, schools typically observe the annual event with special masses and other activities for students and parishioners. Minor said students recognized their schools' benefactors in special liturgies this week.

Contact writer Samuel Speciale at sam.speciale@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4886. Follow him at www.twitter.com/wvschools.

Robert Samuelson: Austerity on trial http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM04/150139985 DM04 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM04/150139985 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:01:00 -0500 WASHINGTON -- Is this the beginning of the end for austerity?

The day after the Greek left-wing party Syriza impressively won the country's latest election, the Financial Times ran the following headline:

"Greek leftists' victory throws down challenge to euro establishment ... Inspiration for similar parties across continent."

It was Greece, recall, that in late 2009 triggered the European debt crisis with the revelation that its budget deficit was far worse than its official statistics indicated (the numbers had been fudged).

And Greece has suffered mightily. From late 2009 to the end of 2013, its economy (gross domestic product) shrank by a punishing 25 percent. At last count (September), the unemployment rate was 25.7 percent. Among youth under 25, the rate was 49.8 percent.

Now Greece is shifting the debate again. The backlash against austerity -- spending cuts, higher taxes and other policies, aimed at reducing large budget deficits and making Greece's wages and prices more competitive on world markets -- is understandable.

Whether it's realistic is, as yet, an unanswered question. What looms, as the Financial Times headline suggested, is a collision between Europe's elites, favoring austerity, and much of the middle class, increasingly desperate and disillusioned.

Alexis Tsipras, Syriza's leader, has proposed renegotiating much of Greece's public debt (now estimated at 177 percent of GDP) and slowing the "privatization" of state-owned businesses.

"Austerity has failed in Greece," he wrote a few days before the election. The former government had "promised the country's lenders that it [would] cut salaries and pensions further, and increase taxes." Crazy, he said. Fulfilling other campaign promises, Tsipras' government quickly announced a higher minimum wage, increases in some state pensions, and plans to re-hire some laid-off government workers.

The rejoinder is that austerity, though hugely painful, was beginning to succeed and trying to undo it may backfire. Jacob Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute fears that Syriza is adopting a self-defeating "confrontational" approach toward Greece's lenders. Greece's economy was predicted to expand modestly, about 2 percent, in 2015. "But given the uncertainty resulting from a confrontation, these projections are worthless," he argues.

Greece has already benefited from one debt write-down. In 2012, about 100 billion euros of debt held by banks and private investors was reduced by half, says economist Hung Tran of the Institute of International Finance, an industry research group. Maturities were also lengthened and interest rates lowered, increasing the overall debt relief.

The write-down has left most of Greece's remaining debt with three governmental organizations -- known as the "troika" -- which continued lending to Greece in return for approved policies.

The troika consists of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund. Together, they hold more than two-thirds of Greece's government debt of 317 billion euros, says Tran.

The troika and Greece will negotiate to resolve their differences.

Failure could be catastrophic for Greece. Unless Greece has a program approved by the troika, the ECB has warned it will cease lending to the country's banks, says Kirkegaard.

Without the ECB backstop, banks would probably fail, further dragging down the economy.

Lacking an agreement, the troika would also not make more loans to Greece, resulting in default on maturing borrowings. Greece might abandon the euro and restore its own currency, the drachma.

But the troika also faces limits to its power. If it is too rigid with Greece, it might fan a further popular backlash in other debtor countries, including Spain and Italy. "The pushback will be strengthened," says Tran.

A Greek exit from the euro would also create a novel situation that, conceivably, could explode into a full-blown financial crisis.

On the other hand, if the troika is too lenient with Greece -- admittedly, a longshot -- other debtor countries might demand relief.

Austerity is on trial. There's a huge split between those who think it is necessary medicine and those who think it is economic poison. And as Tran notes, "the fault line is getting deeper."

Brian Weingart: Considering college? Completing the FAFSA is crucial http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM04/150139986 DM04 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM04/150139986 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:01:00 -0500 by Brian Weingart

West Virginia is a national leader in making sure students from all walks of life can afford to pursue their dreams of earning a college diploma.

Our state's public colleges and universities offer some of the most affordable tuition rates across the country, and West Virginia invests millions of dollars in scholarships and grants.

The federal government too provides financial aid through programs such as the Pell Grant, an income-based program offering thousands of dollars in aid per semester.

These initiatives help level the playing field for low-income students. Higher education is the most promising pathway to building a brighter economic future - not only for the students who earn a degree, but also for the communities in which they live.

Unfortunately, many students who would qualify for financial assistance for college simply do not apply.

Researchers estimate that West Virginia students are leaving millions of dollars of aid unclaimed each year. Addressing this issue starts with making sure our current and soon-to-be college students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the "FAFSA."

The FAFSA is the key to unlocking access to federal programs, such as Pell, and state-level programs, such as the PROMISE Scholarship and the West Virginia Higher Education Grant.

Additionally, many colleges and private scholarship providers require students to complete a FAFSA in order to be considered for funds.

Completing the FAFSA - available online at www.fafsa.gov - is free. On average, it only takes about 30 minutes to apply. Often, the decision to invest those 30 minutes in completing this important form can set the path for a student's future.

"I was reluctant to start college, because I thought taking on debt through student loans was the only option," Darian Vance, a graduate of Scott High School and a student at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College said.

"But I completed the FAFSA because my high school counselor kept encouraging me to - and when I got my financial aid award letter back it was like a whole new world opened up for me."

Any student considering attending a career and technical school or college during the upcoming 2015-16 academic year should complete a FAFSA - even if you think you will not qualify for aid.

Students are often surprised by the aid they are eligible to receive, and students' financial situations may change as they prepare to enroll in college.

College students must complete the FAFSA for every year they plan to attend. Adults looking to return to college should apply as well.

Tammy Angle, a single mom raising two children, attributes her success in college to the availability of financial aid and the college planning assistance provided by the West Virginia Educational Opportunity Center (EOC), a service housed at Bluefield State College and funded by a federal TRIO grant.

"Before working with the EOC and applying for financial aid, I felt hopeless without any direction, dreams, goals or purpose," Tammy wrote.

"Thanks to the support I received, I have completed both my bachelor's from Bluefield State and my master's from Marshall University. I now have a healthcare career that allows me to pay it forward by helping others."

Deadlines to submit the FAFSA vary by program. For example, to apply for the West Virginia PROMISE Scholarship, students must complete both the FAFSA and the PROMISE application by March 1.

The FAFSA is the only application students must submit to be considered for the West Virginia Higher Education Grant, which has a deadline of April 15. Students should complete the FAFSA as early as possible in order to be considered for the widest variety of financial aid resources.

More information about federal and state financial aid programs is available by visiting the College Foundation of West Virginia website at www.cfwv.com.

CFWV is a collaborative initiative among the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, the West Virginia Community and Technical College System, the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Department of Education the Arts. The effort provides free college and career planning resources.

Brian Weingart is the senior director of Financial Aid for the state's Higher Education Policy Commission and Community and Technical College System.

Editorial: Lawmakers: Read the 2012education efficiency audit http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM04/150139987 DM04 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM04/150139987 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:01:00 -0500 No one disagrees that West Virginia's public education system needs improvement.

Despite a per capita funding level that is above the national average and the best efforts of thousands of great teachers, administrators and school service personnel, the overall performance of West Virginia students, as a group, consistenly ranks lower than those of most other states.

West Virginia spends, per capita, 7 percent more per student than the national average, but the state's education results are <URL destination="http://www.alec.org/wp-content/uploads/RC-2014-WV.pdf">50th in the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

</URL>The disagreement comes in how to improve schools in the state.

Legislators in 2014 have introduced several bills relating to public education. Some of these bills may advance and become law, while some will be best if they never see the light of day.

When working on bills regarding public education, lawmakers need to remember the $750,000 investment the state made several years ago in the Education Efficiency Audit.

That investment produced a much-needed in-depth look at West Virginia's public education system. The 150-page report is filled with data and advice for policy makers regarding how the state operates and can improve its public school system.

It's oversimplifying the 2012 audit to continuously repeat this phrase, but still, it is worth retelling the statement by the authors, Public Works LLC:

"West Virginia has one of the most highly centralized and impermeable education systems in the country: no other state education system is so highly regulated in code."

Some changes to the state's education system were made into law in 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions. Unfortunately, those reforms were mostly watered down and didn't go far enough.

Yes, lawmakers need to work on improvements in education. Allowing local school districts to establish charter schools would be a good start.

Besides that, the best education reforms legislators can make are to reduce the education bureaucracy and erase the myriad of laws and regulations that restrict teachers and local school districts.

Return control of the schools to the principals and the classrooms to the teachers.

Editorial: Workers should have a choice on joining unions http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM04/150139988 DM04 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM04/150139988 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:01:00 -0500 To hear opponents of right-to-work legislation talk about it, you would think Senate Bill 337 heralds the dawn of an anti-labor apocalypse.

It's "an attack on the middle class," says a union press release. "It's corporations want(ing) to have total control over the unions," West Virginia AFL-CIO president Kenny Purdue said yesterday.

Actually, it's about giving workers control over their paychecks. West Virginia's current law provides for "union shop" businesses, where all employees must become members of a union as a condition of employment.

If you want to work for such a business, you have no choice but to join the union - and pay union dues, which typically are deducted from your paycheck.

Not a fan of the union? Don't agree with the leadership? Don't want your money going to political candidates you don't support? Under the current law, you're out of luck. Join the union, or look for another job.

Right-to-work legislation would give workers a choice. They'd be free to join the union, as they've always been, but they'd also be free to say no.

Some Democrats oppose the change because they fear that if workers are free to choose, some will opt out. They're probably right about that. But that's no reason to prevent workers from making a choice.

Unions have made valuable contributions to American life. Historically, they've fought for achievements like child labor laws, health and safety standards, and workplace equality. There will always be a role for organized labor in the national conversation.

But it's worth asking if compulsory union membership is truly serving workers, particularly in states like West Virginia that desperately need jobs.

The bill Republicans are proposing would make West Virginia the 25th right to work state. Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida are just a few of the others.

By nearly any measure you can think of, both the economy and the middle class in each of those states is in significantly better shape than it is here.

It's simply not credible to suggest that right-to-work laws are any kind of "attack" on working people. While opponents are certainly free to make their case, their rhetoric is overblown.

State Senate: pass this bill and send it to the House.

Editorial cartoon, Friday, Jan. 30 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM04/150139990 DM04 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/DM04/150139990 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:01:00 -0500 Editorial cartoon, Friday, Jan. 30

Readers' Voice: Jan. 30, 2015 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/GZ01/150139991 GZ01 http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150130/GZ01/150139991 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:01:00 -0500 Express your opinion on any subject you wish. Not all comments are published. Call 304-357-4451 or email readersvoice@wvgazette.com.

If the initial bill introductions are any indication, the newly elected and empowered Republican majority in the Legislature is primed to squander its potential on divisive social issues rather than demonstrate that conservatives can establish a government that is fiscally responsible and politically mature.

Did any of the delegates who introduced HB 2107 bother to even ask the Department of Education staffers who oversee social studies curricula whether the subjects they propose to mandate are missing from students' coursework? No, they did not. If they had, they'd know there isn't a school in the state that doesn't already require students to study state and U.S. history, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, etc.

People need to do a little research when there is an outbreak of so-called 'preventable' diseases. The proponents of unlimited vaccines for everyone would like you to believe that unvaccinated children are responsible for the outbreaks. The truth is that most of those getting the diseases received vaccines and yet they get the worst cases of the disease. The truth doesn't fit into their agenda.

I would like to thank all my union brothers and sisters that voted republican to show that Evil Black Man in the Oval Office that he can't push us around. Now they can get rid of prevailing wage, bring in Right To Work, hold up your paycheck when you are laid off, make it harder than it already is to receive workers comp for a legitimate injury, tort reform so that Bill Cole can sell you a lemon of a vehicle and not be responsible for it, you know, all that stuff that's good for your average working West Virginian.

Sly move taking the penny fuel tax off and then adding a penny to sales tax. I just wonder which is greater. I guess I just lost my 75 cents a month savings from the fuel tax reduction. Can anyone tell me if my taxes went up or down?

It doesn't seem to really matter who is control of Congress or the Statehouse. They all bring with them the desire to repay the people and special interest groups who contributed to their campaigns. Just different sets of winners and losers.

Questions for Delegate Pasdon and the House Ed Committee: 1) How many chemical and mechanical engineers do you know personally who are clamoring to spend their retirement in the classroom? 2) Assuming there are some, do you suppose they'll be interested in teaching non-science courses?

Saw on the sports network that Marshawn Lynch only appeared for five minutes to keep from paying a fine. Five seconds of this egotist would have been more than enough. Disgusting how many of these millionaire athletes have no idea how much good they could do.

I would hope the NFL would look into possible difference in the tees the kickers use and I have often wondered what is in those water bottles they spray into the mouths of players, and have there been criminal checks on the ball boys and water boys? We already know that many of the players are criminals.

I have yet to understand how these so called lawmakers, continue to get elected year after year. If you think the Republican-controlled Legislature is going to make West Virginia better, you are so wrong. I am a lifelong West Virginian and it makes me sick to see West Virginia going backward even further.

So Shelley Moore Capito says she needs to learn about all the issues throughout the state. I would think she should know them by now since the only thing she did as a member of Congress for over 10 years was campaign outside of her district.

So the Kochs, America's second richest family, want to pour almost a billion dollars into the 2016 election, mostly to elect Republicans. Do you suppose they want to protect their wealth? Should we feel used?

When the South Charleston High School principal was praising city council recently was it for building ballfields or not endorsing the library levy?

The West Virginia GOP is not going to pass a jobs bill all they want to do is repeal anything that helps middle class people of West Virginia or anything Obama has done we all know how you think so have fun for two years then the real people will speak.

Did the trucking company or the oil company that spilled the fuel into Anthony's Creek in Greenbrier County offer to supply water for the residents affected? Probably not.

I would like to thank the person responsible for finding and returning the C&P Telephone company ring which was lost in Sam's Club on Jan. 27. This ring has been a cherished keepsake from my career at C&P where I worked for many years. I hope the person responsible feels good knowing that its return has made me happy.