Be Well Prepared For Special Session

Gov. Joe Manchin is right to be pointing out that West Virginians are extremely conscientious and selfless in supporting public schools. But the governor, in making that comment, hinted at a question: Are we getting good value for our money?

Manchin has been at odds with members of the state Board of Education. His wife, Gayle, has agreed with some of his concerns – and she is a member of the board.

“To continue to do what we have always done and expect different results no longer is an option,” Manchin wrote in a letter to board members. He is absolutely correct. “We must remove any and all impediments that prevent our children from successfully acquiring the 21st century learning skills they need to compete in this global economy,” the governor added in his letter.

Pointing out that our state “lags far behind other states in educational attainment,” the governor also noted that annual spending on West Virginia public schools averages $11,488 per pupil. That is higher than the national average of $10,557, despite the fact that the Mountain State’s median income is the second lowest in the nation.

Obviously, as we have pointed out for many years, West Virginians are willing to make sacrifices to provide the best educations possible for our children.

Again: Are we getting our money’s worth?

Clearly, the answer is a resounding “No!” in some counties, including some of the largest in the state.

Manchin has said he plans to call a special session of the Legislature to deal with education issues. He speculated several weeks ago that he might take such action if the state’s application for federal “Race to the Top” education funding was rejected. It was.

We hope the governor’s plan for a special session includes specific ideas for better schools. Education reform may well be the toughest nut the governor has attempted to crack during his time in office.

He is right, however: More needs to be done – quickly. That said, we encourage the governor to be as well prepared as possible for the special session. If that means delaying it for several weeks until he, legislators and the state Board of Education can devise an action plan, the additional time should be devoted to the task. This is an issue on which we West Virginians need to do our homework.