West Virginia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Herald-Dispatch on how West Virginia leaders are creating rules and regulations for the establishment and operation of charter schools:
Officials of the West Virginia Department of Education and at least two county school superintendents met in Parkersburg last week to discuss rules to regulate charter schools in West Virginia.
The Legislature passed House Bill 206 this summer to allow a limited number of charter schools. Now it’s up to the state school board to draft rules and regulations for the establishment and operation of charter schools. As contentious as it was just getting a law passed allowing charters to operate in West Virginia, debate on the rules governing them could be even more controversial.
HB 206 allows public charter schools that are formed by any combination of parents, community members, teachers, school administrators or institutions of higher education. They are public schools and may not be affiliated with any religious sect, nor may they employ religious practices in admissions, curriculum or employment.
Public charter schools are nonprofit. Under West Virginia’s law, they are meant to empower new, innovative and more flexible ways to educate children such as by a distinctive curriculum or a specialized academic or technical theme. They must operate under the authority of county boards of education, and they may recruit students only from the county or counties that formed them.
Proponents of charter schools ask a simple question: If public schools in some counties aren’t getting the job done to parents’ satisfaction, what’s wrong with competition? Why shouldn’t parents have another choice, funded with their tax dollars, in areas where the public schools need improvement? And why not add some flexibility into a system that is often too rigid and too micromanaged at the state or county level?
HB 206 requires the state school board to issue regulations pertaining to charter school no later than Jan. 1, 2020. The regulations cannot be final until after a public comment period of at least 30 days.
According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, state Schools Superintendent Steve Paine told state board members last month that he expects to have the draft regulations available for public comment by October, giving the public more than 30 days to comment.
“We want to have teacher organizations, principals, local boards, you know, higher education, lots of people in a room and have a representative sample of people to have the discussions,” Paine told the state board. “We’ll put people in there that are on both sides of the issue and just deal with them. That’s the only way I know to do it, is just to have those frank discussions and make sure they’re civil and make sure everyone has a chance to be heard, and then give you that information.”
Developing a policy on charter schools undoubtedly is a complicated matter that requires extensive research and a great deal of time. Likewise, the public will need time to examine the proposed policy so it can see if the state board’s plan complies with the spirit of HB 206.
The charter school fight in West Virginia isn’t over. It didn’t end with the Legislature’s enacting a law allowing them. People who supported HB 206 and people who opposed it are gearing up for the next round.
Paine is wise to put a draft policy document out to the public early. Transparency will go a long way toward ensuring the public will get what it wanted when the Legislature approved HB 206. As the saying goes, the devil will indeed be in the details.
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register on increasing conservation efforts in West Virginia:
Conserving precious plants, animals and places is a critical responsibility in West Virginia. No one does it better than the Nature Conservancy.
Some people who see themselves as environmentalists favor confrontation as a way to achieve their goals. But the Conservancy is based on the feeling that cooperation works better.
Does it? Judge for yourself: More than 120,000 acres — for comparison, that is about twice the land area of Brooke County — in our state has been safeguarded for the future by the Conservancy. No one else even comes close.
Conservancy officials work with land owners, sometimes large companies, to preserve significant natural areas. Often, the business community is delighted to cooperate.
“I truly believe we can have it both ways by growing our economy, while also sustaining nature,” commented U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., during her keynote speech at the Conservancy’s annual Corporate Council for the Environment dinner.
Precisely. As the senator, herself a leader in conservation, pointed out, 91,000 jobs rely on the outdoor recreation industry in West Virginia.
We can do even better — and the Nature Conservancy merits praise for helping make that possible.
The Register-Herald on the closing of Ohio Valley Medical Center and what Gov. Jim Justice could do to help the state economy:
When negotiations broke down and Alecto Healthcare moved ahead with mothballing the Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, Gov. Jim Justice took the opportunity to lambaste “this huge out-of-state conglomerate” that “cares very little for West Virginians.”
We’re pretty sure that did not win the governor or the state any bonus points with the Irvine, Calif., company that provides health care system and management services with hospitals in California and Texas.
And we have to wonder if other corporations heard how our state’s chief executive officer was bad-mouthing one of their own.
We understand the governor’s frustration — especially in light of some bad economic numbers — but we think he gave the state a bad look.
Alecto, owner of both the hospital in Wheeling and Ohio Regional Hospital (EORH) in Martins Ferry, Ohio, said early last month that it would be closing both facilities in two to three months.
And then Tuesday, OVMC announced that all services, including acute and emergency medical, would be suspended at the stroke of midnight on Wednesday. In total, more than 1,000 employees were let go. Just as concerning, access to quality health care took a hit in a state that has had problems with providing just that.
OVMC housed Hillcrest, an adult behavioral health center, and the Robert C. Byrd Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health Center. Those were the only ones of their kind in the Wheeling area. So not only will medical professionals be on the move, so, too, will patients and families, from a state that has been experiencing outmigration rates that are, in a word, concerning.
Alecto had been in negotiations with West Virginia University Medicine at the time of the sudden closure on Wednesday, but according to OVMC CEO Daniel Dunmyer, WVU Medicine was not interested in taking over part of the hospital’s downtown campus. “They simply were not interested in our facilities that provide acute and emergency medical services,” Dunmyer said.
So, yes, a terrible outcome all the way around for Wheeling, West Virginia and the state of health care in the Mountain State to say nothing about the economy which gave off additional warning signals when state revenue collections missed their estimates for the third consecutive month.
The state collected $16.8 million less in taxes than projected in August, according to data released by the state Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, the same day as the Alecto announcement. Now, two months into the new fiscal year, the state is $49.8 million below budget projections.
That is not good, especially for a governor who has been out and about bragging about how terrific the economy has been performing under his stewardship while, simultaneously, asking the Legislature for a cool $12.5 million in tax breaks to keep the Pleasants Power Station — an uncompetitive coal-fired power plant — up and running.
Also contrary to the governor’s rosy narrative, personal income tax collections in August were more than $5 million under water and severance tax collections were $12 million short of expectations. Those data points, the power plant bailout and the hospital closing do not speak to the story of a robust economy the governor has been selling.
Instead of writing fiction and appointing yet another blue ribbon committee of good ol’ boys — this one to study how to leverage overly hyped and exaggerated production numbers associated with the anticipated growth of the petrochemical industry in Appalachia — the governor needs to consult with the state’s best economic minds. And then he needs to put pen to paper and spell out a nonpartisan plan on how to build a diversified and dynamic economy, not one wholly dependent on an industry whose shelf life is being threatened by an aversion to coal and a preference for renewable and nonpolluting means of energy creation.
The sooner, the better, governor.