For well more than a half-century, voters in both Brooke and Hancock counties have supported special tax levies to ensure public schools are the very best local residents can provide. Next Saturday, Nov. 9, they will be asked to renew the levies.
We recommend voters in both counties cast ballots for the levies.
Without income from the special levies, public schools in both counties would be devastated. It would be difficult - if not impossible - to meet basic state requirements. Neither county would be able to provide any of the "extras," ranging from extra-curricular programs to offerings in the arts and enhanced academic initiatives.
In Brooke County, the special levy raises about $6.1 million a year. In Hancock, it accounts for about $7.1 million annually.
For decades, voters in Brooke and Hancock counties have insisted on the best for their children - and backed that up with regular reauthorizations of the special levies. Brooke's was approved first in 1958. Hancock's is even older, dating back to 1949.
School administrators and teachers in both counties have put the money to good use. While there is no denying improvements are needed in public education virtually everywhere, public schools in the two counties stack up well against their counterparts elsewhere in West Virginia in many measures of quality.
For example, more than three-fifths of the teachers in both counties hold master's degrees or better. That is several percentage points above the state average.
High school graduation rates in both counties also are above the state average.
Levy money is used for a variety of purposes, including salary supplements for school employees. Without those supplements, Brooke and Hancock counties would have to pay the state minimum salaries for teachers - and would lose many of the best and brightest to Pennsylvania and Ohio. School systems in both states pay far above the average for West Virginia.
In terms of value for tax dollars, there are few if any better deals than what voters get in exchange for their commitment to public schools. Most residents of Brooke and Hancock counties have recognized that not just for years or even decades, but for generations.
This is no time for that commitment to flag. The need for quality schools to prepare young people to compete in a world marketplace is more apparent than ever. Again, we urge voters in Brooke and Hancock counties to go to the polls next Saturday and cast ballots for the levies.