As an increasing number of young people turn away from the rural counties of southern West Virginia, it is not difficult to identify the factors at play. A recent report by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy shows rural West Virginians have poorer health, lower educational attainment levels, lower wages, are older and have fewer job opportunities.

No Dollar Store on earth can fix all of that.

But we can expect our elected representatives to write policy that gives the next generation a fair shot at a better life, which would put more than a few paver bricks in the reconstruction of our downtowns. During this election season, we would recommend that all citizens consider first which candidates are working for them, their communities, their well being, their kids. And which candidates are not.

We want state senators and delegates who write prescriptions to improve rural health, raise the minimum wage and enact tax reforms not for the wealthy, not for the extraction industries, but on those folks and businesses so that we can raise revenue to invest in the more vulnerable populations.

We want expanded access to affordable and quality child care. That alone would boost labor force participation and improve long-term child outcomes, to say nothing of putting a shine on the quality of life for working families. Our candidates need to embrace the fact that the high cost of childcare is a financial barrier to many from joining the workforce.

We want policies that are geared towards putting people back to work, towards putting more dollars in their pockets through honest means. In that vein, the minimum wage needs a boost.

We want a big commitment to education – K-12, the local community college and 4-year colleges – beyond but including another substantial teacher pay raise.

We do not want to close any of our colleges. And we want to make post-secondary education more accessible to more of our high school grads.

We have heard Gov. Jim Justice rave about the state’s improved revenue collections. OK, put our tax dollars to work.

When the general store closes, when the small community school is forced to ship students over the mountain, when a local restaurant serves its last farm-to-table meal, we are in a heap of trouble.

We are not looking for a hand out, but we are looking for candidates who are concerned about the the next generation – and about rebuilding our town.

— The Register-Herald

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