Restoring Local Control … Or Not

Picking the right person to become West Virginia’s new school superintendent will be a difficult task for state Board of Education members, in part because of the mixed signals that person will have to sort through.

Current state Superintendent Michael Martirano will be leaving at the end of the current school year. Martirano, though leaving the post for personal reasons, experienced his share of challenges in determining just what legislators want from the state Department of Education.

There are signs the job will be no easier for his successor.

Part of the problem is that at both the state and federal levels, top officials maintain they want to restore more local control of public schools — then they implement new state and federal mandates for educators.

West Virginia legislators are providing an example of that. A bill in the state Senate, SB 524, would block use of the widely unpopular Common Core curriculum standards in our state. That program was forced down many states’ throats by the U.S. Department of Education.

But SB 524 would require Mountain State public schools to use mathematics curriculum from California and language arts standards from Massachusetts. Some critics have noted requirements in both those states were used to develop Common Core.

So, in place of math and English curriculum detailed in the Common Core program, West Virginia educators could find themselves required to do the same thing under a different name.

No matter how much lipstick one applies to the pig …

Some facets of Common Core are good. The California math and Massachusetts language arts outlines may — or may not — be among them.

But the point is that while insisting the state and federal departments of education should give local school officials more control, legislators are on a path to restrict local options.

Twelve people have applied for the state superintendent’s job. West Virginia Board of Education members have begun looking at the applicants.

Let us hope the winner (?) has both the education credentials to improve Mountain State schools and the political experience to deal with the “do as we say, not as we do” mentality that so often prevails in Charleston.

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