Editorial Roundup: West Virginia
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Herald-Dispatch on the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has on higher education enrollment:
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on higher education nationwide in many ways. That’s true in West Virginia, although perhaps not here as much as elsewhere.
As noted by reporter Courtney Hessler in Sunday’s edition of The Herald-Dispatch, West Virginia was one of four states that saw both its college undergraduate and graduate enrollment increase in the past year.
While the state is seeing an increase in enrollment, Marshall University officials said it has been a give and take in adjusting while trying to navigate the new waters of the pandemic. They said COVID-19 could have effects that will linger in programs for several years, but it is too early to tell what those might be.
While some Marshall University officials said applications to the university’s graduate programs have slowed, they haven’t had issues filling classes, Hessler reported. Financial hardship caused by COVID-19 and difficulty in finding child care caused by school closures are probable causes for the decline in applications, they said.
It sounds like Marshall will have to compete for students as the pandemic eases, and that’s a good thing.
For many years, a university education was seen as the ticket to a middle- class life. Students were willing to borrow the money to get such an education. COVID-19 undoubtedly has many prospective students questioning the correlation between a degree and affluence. While STEM fields have maintained that connection, there is growing doubt that liberal arts provide a step up in the job market compared to skilled trades.
Thanks to the internet, word gets around about what degrees are worth the time and money and what schools offer the best programs. Young people have more ability to track how certain degrees lead to careers in a variety of fields.
The Tri-State area is blessed with several state-supported institutions of higher learning: Marshall, Mountwest Community and Technical College, Ohio University Southern and Ashland Community and Technical College come to mind first. Within commuting distance or near the edge of it are West Virginia State University, Shawnee State University and Morehead State University. Private schools such as the University of Charleston are also an option.
These offer a variety of programs, tuition rates, financial aid, job placement rates, social environments and other matters of importance to students, whether the students are fresh out of high school or are in their 30s or 40s and looking for a career change.
Competition combined with the free flow of information benefits prospective students. Schools that try to serve the previous generation of students might not be the best fit for this generation or the next one. The next decade could see institutions of higher education fight for every available body to put in the classroom. Shrewd students should benefit.
The Intelligencer on term limits for constitutional officers:
Sen. Ryan Weld is absolutely right that West Virginia needs to get into the business of good governance. A measure the Republican from Brooke County is sponsoring to limit the number of terms the state’s constitutional officers can hold office — Senate Joint Resolution 11 — is a solid step in that direction.
The constitutional offices — secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, attorney general and agriculture — currently have no limits on the number of terms an elected representative can serve. This has led to decades-long bureaucratic tenures for some of those holding these offices.
Weld seeks to change that. The joint resolution calls for a constitutional officeholder to serve no more than three consecutive terms — 12 years. It also would apply retroactively to those constitutional officers currently in office — Treasurer Riley Moore (first term), Auditor J.B. McCuskey, Secretary of State Mac Warner, Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt (all in their second term) and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (in his third term). That means, if approved, Morrisey would be in his final term as attorney general.
All five have given their support to the measure.
“This will be a tremendous opportunity for us to finally restrain executive power,” Moore said. “We’ve come here as a collective group to say we are tired of the policies of the past of having individuals sit in these offices for decades upon decades. We think this is the best way forward in terms of governance and transparency and accountability here in … West Virginia.”
It’s not as if term limits already aren’t in place in West Virginia. Governors are limited to two terms, and the state also limits county sheriffs to two terms. But other constitutional officers in the executive branch are not term-limited.
Now the heavy lifting begins. First, the resolution must be adopted by two-thirds vote of both the state Senate and the House of Delegates, and then approved by voters in a special election in 2022. If it passes all those barriers, it would take effect for the 2024 election cycle.
Weld continues to show principled leadership during his tenure in the Senate. This resolution is another step toward good governance in the state.
The Register Herald on Gov. Jim Justice loosening COVID-19 restrictions:
Gov. Jim Justice had every right to call out fellow Republican governors for playing political football with mask mandates. And we are glad that he did because it was a good look for the state.
In an appearance on – clutch your pearls – CNN on Thursday, the governor criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to remove his state’s mask mandate, warning it could be a “mistake.” Indeed, masks assist in stopping the transmission of Covid-19 and, as such, they save lives.
We just hope the governor, announcing on Friday that he was relaxing standards and opening up the state a little more aggressively than what we are comfortable with, knows what he is doing. To go backwards in our fight against this insidious and highly infectious disease would be demoralizing and, quite possibly, tragic at a time when we seem to have good news arriving daily.
At his Friday pandemic press briefing, the governor announced a whole fistful of restrictions that he was lifting. Seating capacities at restaurants and bars are back to 100 percent – just as long as social distancing can be maintained. The governor also opened up capacity for public gatherings to 100 people and gave his blessing to 100 percent capacity at museums and fitness centers.
The problem, of course, is similar to the mask mandate. Who is in charge of monitoring public spaces and measuring the distance between restaurant tables?
We still can’t go to the grocery store without seeing people without masks while others have not mastered the rather simple art of keeping both mouth and nose covered.
So when the governor announces that he is loosening restrictions and the public sees health-related statistics falling, we are concerned that people don’t let down their guard just in time for a virus variant to show up and put a whole bunch of people back into the intensive care unit.
Yes, we are just a little nervous about it all. The summer surge was bad enough but the holiday numbers were overwhelming. And now, on our way out of that mess, even as we approach 525,000 deaths across the states, even as we count another 65,682 new daily illnesses and even as, here in the Mountain State, we count 326 new infections, 5,984 active cases and five deaths here and 2,485 across the U.S. on Friday, we just want some assurance that the governor is doing the right thing. And, we know, it is partly because it seems we are so much closer to the end of this ordeal than we are to its beginnings.
Again, the news is feeding our optimism. The Senate just passed a Covid relief bill and the House is likely to move it along for President Joe Biden to sign into law.
It is, The Economist reports, more popular than the 2017 Trump tax cuts and the Affordable Care Act along with a whole bunch of other measures. And there is good reason it is among the most popular pieces of legislation in decades.
It’s not just the money that the bill is distributing to millions of Americans, but the additional assistance in manufacturing, distributing and administering Covid vaccines that should put a cap on this new administration’s response to the pandemic and brighten everyone’s day.
Already, the Biden administration has nearly doubled the pace of inoculations – up to 2 million doses administered daily.
With a third vaccine – this one using a single- shot protocol – we may very well, as the president suggests, have enough vaccine available for every American by the end of May – before summer festivals, weddings, vacations, baseball games and holidays.
We just need to be disciplined enough to get there healthy and whole.
As it stands, the infection rate is falling across the country and state as the nation’s economy is rising. Like we said, good news is coming in buckets these days.
For his part, Justice said he is not taking his responsibility lightly.
“It’s my responsibility to lead us in the right path and be as cautious as I can be while still trying in every way for us to live with this terrible killer and get us back to as much normalcy as we can possibly get to,” the governor said.
Fine, governor. We hope we are wrong. We just think you may be jumping the gun – and it especially concerns us when we are so close to the finish line that we can see it dead ahead.
We cannot celebrate until we have won the race. We think there are laps remaining.