West Virginia needs comprehensive school reform

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

For several years, education reform has been a nonpartisan priority in the Legislature. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, has been a leader in calling for it.

The fact Republicans will control both houses of the Legislature for the first time in decades should not change the comprehensive nature of reforms that have been on the table for years.

But upcoming GOP control does seem to have provided a focus. It is the Common Core education standards adopted by most states at the behest of federal officials.

Many conservatives – and on this issue, that seems to include a substantial number of West Virginians – dislike the idea of detailed Common Core requirements for what will be taught in public schools and, in many cases, how it will be taught.

That has prompted some Republican legislators to speculate that repealing the Common Core standards already adopted for our state will be a priority in January and February.

Indeed, Common Core is an issue. But it is not the only one in public schools. In fact, it probably is not the most important challenge to be tackled.

Mountain State taxpayers already go above and beyond the call of duty in funding education. On a per capita basis, the amount we pay to support public schools is higher than in all but a few other states.

Meanwhile, as measured by standardized tests and other yardsticks of education quality, we lag badly behind most other states.

That simply must change if our young people – and our state itself – are to have bright futures.

A few years ago, a consultant studied the state’s public school system extensively. One recommendation was to cut spending on administration, especially at the state level, and put more money in classrooms.

Has that been done? If so, it is difficult to detect.

One question legislators ought to be asking next year is whether the consultant’s recommendations really have been implemented. If not, why?

That would be an excellent start toward the comprehensive reform West Virginia’s public schools need – badly.

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