We remain convinced that the omnibus education bill passed Monday in the Senate was pieced together by politicos with special interests at the controls, that education experts were not credibly included in its policy formation and, at the end of the day, the provisions inside the nearly 200-page behemoth seriously miss the mark of addressing shortcomings, K-12. This bill largely ignores schoolhouse support systems and the grinding societal realities in the far reaches of a desperately poor, rural state.

It should give each and every citizen pause to consider that the state’s teachers unions, the state’s Board of Education, county school district superintendents, education experts and the governor himself have come out against this lame excuse for educational reform.

In truth, this bill is a mash-up of invective toward professional educators for a nine-day walkout last year and a warm embrace of private interests whose pockets will be padded with public dollars at the expense of the less privileged.

This bill is almost wholly unrelated to education, and it is only the hubris of certain senators, key among them Senate President Mitch Carmichael, that is keeping it alive.

The leading senator and his Republican minions, including Sens. Rollan Roberts and Sue Cline from our neck of the woods, believe they know better than the daily practitioners, educated in the field and experienced in the classroom. And that, plain and simple, is pure balderdash.

The legislation – far-reaching, unwieldy and, ultimately, what would prove to be ineffective – has been touted by proponents as important and necessary education reform. It is neither. It has been advertised as innovative. And that is hyperbole stretched to the nth degree. Note to those drunk on the watery elixir of this bill’s biggest false promise: There is nothing inherently innovative about the notion of public-funded charter schools. They have been around a long time – normally in more populous states and, there, in more densely populated locales than we have here in the Mountain State. Depending on what statistics you subscribed to for your argument, the fact remains that charter schools are as equally good, bad and pedestrian as the public school just down the street.

Besides, does anyone believe that, should this bill pass, there would be interest in establishing charter schools in Wyoming County? In McDowell? To pull resources away from the local public schools that already are challenged by declining populations?

What in this bill addresses the consolidation of schools in Fayette County where Fayetteville, just next year, will be without a high school for the community to rally around?

Valley High, too, is closing its doors.

Will charter schools fix that?

Other than giving teachers a 5 percent pay raise, which can affect the quality of education in classrooms across the state, there is nothing in this bill that directly benefits the great majority of our state’s school children.

And that is our primary concern.

Just this past December, DHHR Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch told lawmakers it would take roughly $100 million for the state to employ the number of new mental health workers at West Virginia schools that health officials say is needed.

In West Virginia, given the pervasive and pernicious opioid addiction crisis, given a 19.1 percent poverty rate that balloons to25 percent of all children, given the incarceration and recidivism rates, given the unemployment conundrum that has nearly half of our state’s adults not participating in the economy, there are too many children who have been broken beneath the weight of adult failures.

Seems terribly convenient to blame teachers for testing outcomes, as Carmichael does routinely while ignoring the damaged children we ask them to glue back together.

Those children need help on multiple levels via school resources because the local school is the only place where they can reliably receive that help.

Is any of that addressed in this bill? Of course not.

We are less concerned with how students test, Sen. Carmichael, and far more interested in the quality of education and social support they receive, the sense of academic rigor, the joy of learning and discovery, the development of critical and creative thinking skills.

Children need to feel safe and loved, and we need to show them our collective interest in their futures. We believe that if we, as a state, leave selfish political and private concerns at home and take an honest run at improving public education for all, the scoreboard will speak for itself.

— The Register-Herald

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