State agencies should follow auditor advice

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel 

PARKERSBURG — Agency after agency is proving that bureaucratic bloat is so much a part of Charleston culture that each believes it is entitled to be the drain on taxpayer funds it has become. In fact, officials want you to believe they and all the money they waste are essential, and terrible things will happen, should they be forced to behave like fiscally responsible private entities must.

Legislative auditors are likely braced for the petulant reactions they receive to their analysis, but we must hope lawmakers do not fall for the theatrics. The latest example comes from the Higher Education Policy Commission and the Council for Community and Technical College Education, which were criticized at the beginning of the year by the Legislative Auditor’s office for not doing their jobs, and spending far too much taxpayer money.

As that report was brought up again in an interim meeting with the Joint Standing Committee on Education, both agencies were reminded lawmakers were urged to reconsider giving them as much money as they sought. Auditors had gone so far as to call the money spent on those agencies each year “excessive.”

Yet again, the response from those in charge at the agencies was that auditors just did not understand. The Chancellor of the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education complained that auditors did not acknowledge the one thing she claims her agency has gotten right. It has increased the number of graduates from its schools. So, she told another media outlet, “to say that we’re not holding our institutions accountable, because they don’t meet every single sub-category of every single measure on the compact, I think is unfair, because what I care about is student success.”

Pushing enough students (eventually) out the door each year to say graduation rates are increasing is not the same thing as “student success.” Doing so while letting many other standards slip and throwing taxpayer money away in the process is a big problem.

West Virginia University at Parkersburg has implemented its own program to give students “a greater opportunity to complete their programs in an efficient and timely manner,” as President Fletcher Lamkin put it. And that is part of a plan to “lay the foundation for better student retention and higher quality programs.” Not all similar schools are doing their own work to meet those kinds of goals.

Auditors keep showing lawmakers and state officials where they can save money and do better for taxpayers. And the comfortable class in Charleston just keeps squawking. It is a shame they do not use the same kind of energy on figuring out how to do right by the rest of us.

See more from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

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