- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


Sept. 2

The Journal, Martinsburg, West Virginia on public school reform:

If you are among the many people concerned about the quality of public schools in West Virginia, the hits just keep coming.

Earlier this month, results of the state’s new standardized test were released. They show most - yes, most, not just a few - public school students are not able to achieve “proficient” grades in English and mathematics.

Then, last week, results of the ACT college tests for this year were released. Just 21 percent of Mountain State high school graduates who took the test met all four of the ACT’s benchmarks for readiness to do college-level work. Testing covered English, mathematics, reading and science.

ACT results mean this, in a nutshell: Nearly four of every five West Virginians who took the test were not fully prepared by their high schools to go to college.

Of the 11,289 students who took the test in our state, most probably enrolled in some form of higher education. No doubt many will have to work their way through remedial classes in college, costing them time and money.

Clearly, something is very wrong with the public school system, not just in our state but in many others, too. ACT comparisons between how West Virginians did on the test and national averages make that painfully obvious.

In English, 69 percent of Mountain State students earned ACT scores indicating they are ready for college work. The national average was just 64 percent.

In math, 34 percent of West Virginians met the ACT benchmark, compared to 42 percent nationally. Low numbers also were recorded in reading and science.

Education reform allegedly has been a national priority for decades. Yet little seems to have changed.

It was obvious years ago that something about how we manage public schools was not working. It still isn’t.




Sept. 2

The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register on health care providers:

Health care providers in West Virginia have complained for years about the state’s Certificate of Need rule. It can smother progress, depriving people of some types of medical treatment, they insist.

Certificates of Need, issued by the state Healthcare Authority, are required for hospital expansions, additions of new facilities and similar projects. Without a CON, most medical facilities are limited severely in new services for residents of the areas they serve.

Unless the state Department of Health and Human Services intervenes.

DHHR officials have been criticized by the U.S. Department of Justice for how West Virginia handles children and young adults up to age 21 who require behavioral health treatment.

One complaint is that too many of those in that category are sent to treatment facilities outside the state.

But a company based in Charlotte, N.C., may open a 70-bed facility in Logan to provide behavioral health treatment to patients 4-21 years of age who otherwise might be shipped to out-of-state centers.

Normally, that kind of proposal would require a CON. But earlier this summer, DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling wrote to the Healthcare Authority recommending the proposed Logan facility not be required to undergo a CON review. Reportedly, she noted state law allows such an exemption for some behavioral health services.

It may be that the facility in Logan is needed. Certainly, if it places children and young adults in treatment closer to their families, it will be a good thing.

But granting a CON exemption based solely on the DHHR’s recommendation is bound to leave a bad taste in the mouths of many other health care facility owners and administrators who have not received similar consideration.

State legislators should look into the DHHR proposal, providing at least some oversight to ensure it is a good thing for taxpayers and residents of the Logan area. They also should take another look at whether the CON process serves West Virginians well.




Sept. 1

Charleston Daily Mail on state’s response to Hurricane Katrina

Ten years ago, this country watched a tragedy unfold in one of its most beloved cities. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, levees failed and floodwaters took over much of New Orleans, leading to massive loss of life and property.

It was a horrifying natural disaster, amplified by human engineering mistakes and incompetence. There have been many hard lessons to reflect on in the past decade, but one of the few happy ones has been the transformative effect of hospitality.

Many states, most notably Texas, took in refugees whose homes and livelihoods were lost to Katrina. But West Virginia, under the leadership of then Gov. Joe Manchin, also played a key role in taking in evacuees, providing them not only with food and shelter, but also the tools to rebuild their lives.

“From the start, we considered people from New Orleans to be our guests, we actually referred to them as guests, rather than evacuees or refugees or displaced people,” Dr. David Deci, who worked with many of them, told the Gazette-Mail’s David Gutman.

That welcoming attitude led some to settle in the Mountain State permanently. Gutman interviewed two of those individuals, and one of them, Jennifer Hill, also shared her story with West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Hill spent several days in the New Orleans Superdome during the crisis. After she and her ailing mother finally got out of the city, they found themselves on a plane to West Virginia - a state Hill had never set foot in.

Ten years later, she’s a proud West Virginian, with degrees from both Marshall and West Virginia University. And as a social worker at the Children’s Home Society, where she works with children in foster families and emergency shelters, she’s giving back to the community that welcomed her.

“It was so calm and peaceful,” Hill said of her decision to stay in the state. “I said, ‘OK, we will close that chapter and we will stay here.’”

By setting up an extensive system of relief and support for Katrina victims, Manchin and his team did a good and important thing. For Hill and others, the positive effects are still being felt a decade later.



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