Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register on West Virginia’s national political influence:
There are many reasons for those in Washington, D.C., to believe they can get away with ignoring West Virginia. We are small, relatively poor and lost our most powerful U.S. Senator in 2010.
A report by Wallet Hub released last week shows the Mountain State’s national political influence may be even weaker than we thought. The Electorate Representation Index, a measure of which states most closely resemble the American electorate as a whole, places West Virginia in 48th place. (Mississippi and Vermont are the only worse representatives of the electorate.)
With a 79.6 percent overall match to the electorate in categories such as socio-demographics, economy, education, religion and public opinion, West Virginia is lightyears away from any chance at hosting one of those early, “important primaries.” Although, surprisingly, Iowa ranks 17th on the index and New Hampshire shares the bottom levels at 44th - tradition has a lot to do with it.
The top three states on the index, Illinois, Florida and Michigan, match the electorate at 93 percent or more; each could make a case for having primary elections early enough to influence the rest of the presidential campaign. But the numbers tell West Virginians another story about ourselves. There is no place - no people - like us.
Certainly we may struggle against some of what makes us different. West Virginia placed farther away from the national reference value for educational attainment than any other state. But in many ways, we are proud of what makes us unusual among Americans.
West Virginians match the national electorate in terms of religion only 63.74 percent of the time. In the public opinion category, the match is about 76.18 percent. Florida and Michigan may be happy to know they are top in the nation at holding religious views or public opinion that falls in line with everyone else. But Mountaineers would likely need to take a long hard look in the mirror if they ever became so vanilla.
We sacrifice a lot of things - political influence among them - in West Virginia because we are not like the rest. As we work hard to improve our education system and our economy, the truth is, we would not have it any other way.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail on state lawmakers and gun legislation:
West Virginia’s government is drowning in the worst budget crisis within memory. So what are conservative legislators doing? Passing absurd right-wing bills to hurt gays, restrict women’s rights, and let everyone carry hidden pistols without licenses, background checks or safety training, even when their own constituents largely say no thanks to such a bill.
The pistols-for-all bill would let virtually anyone be armed to kill - no questions asked. Are lawmakers deliberately trying to make the Mountain State a national butt of jokes? Or just a more dangerous place to live?
The “concealed carry” proposal flying through both chambers would let unsuitable people skulk around - in stores, churches, sports arenas, beer taverns, schools or wherever - with loaded guns, like drug dealers in high-crime neighborhoods.
But the pistol-packers couldn’t enter Legislature chambers, because guards and metal detectors have been installed at the Capitol. If lawmakers are so afraid that they hide behind metal detectors, why do they want to inflict hidden guns on West Virginians lacking such protection?
Gov. Tomblin should veto this monstrosity. But we hope he stalls until the session ends and legislators go home, so they won’t have a chance to override him.
Over the weekend, a deranged driver in Michigan went on a murder rampage and killed six innocent folks. The incident was so commonplace that it appeared in back pages of most newspapers, hardly unusual news. Under the impending West Virginia law change, the man would have a perfect legal right to drive around, armed to kill.
Nearly every police group in this state opposes the new pistols-for-everyone law. It would expose officers to more danger at any traffic stop. Since apprehensive officers couldn’t know when a suspect might open fire, mistaken police killings of stopped people might increase. Other gun deaths could rise.
“We’re setting into play a situation (where) we could have blood on our hands,” Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, warned Monday.
Earlier, a state leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America told legislators that the pistol bill “does not represent the will of most West Virginians. West Virginia moms urge our delegates not to put our families in harm’s way by allowing untrained persons to carry concealed loaded weapons in our communities.” Several gun owners have criticized the bill, pointing out that their permits in other states would be jeopardized if West Virginia changes its law.
Why are legislators serving the tiny fringe of pistol-carriers, instead of solving major problems like the budget crisis?
The Inter-Mountain on state’s public education system:
While we’re busy playing political football with education, local school systems and, by default, the students they serve are losing yards on the field.
It’s happening both locally and statewide.
Right now, the West Virginia Legislature is wrestling with a bill to repeal the Common Core States Standards Initiative. At last check, it was stalled in the House Education Committee.
Just a bit of research into the matter uncovers the truth: The Common Core debate is just another tug-of-war between the Left and the Right. It’s partisan politics once again getting in the way of the greater good.
How many times in the last few years has West Virginia pulled the rug out from under students, academically speaking? In West Virginia, we change educational standards more often than our legislators change their socks.
The problem certainly isn’t too much education in our politics. That much is apparent. It is, purely and simply, an overabundance of politics in our education.
And, lo and behold, a similar game is being played even now in Randolph County, where voters recently (and shamefully) shot down an education levy, which would have represented an investment in the future of education in the county and a direct benefit to the future well-being of students. And why? Just so businesses and residents could save a few dollars on their yearly tax ticket.
Oh, the call came loud and clear from the naysayers: The Board of Education needs to tighten its belt and live within its means. And why not? We all have to do the same, after all. It’s only fair, right?
We are constantly baffled by the lack of forward thinking, both locally and statewide, when it comes to education. We sacrifice the long-term good for the short-term gratification.
It’s pathetic, really. No wonder West Virginia ranks 47th in the nation in education, according to the latest Kids Count Data.
A meager 21.46 percent of students tested in Randolph County were proficient in math, according to the West Virginia Summative Assessment/APTA Assessment data for 2014-2015. Forty percent were proficient in reading and language arts, and 32 percent were proficient in science.
We need to produce high-quality students capable of both immediately finding employment in the job market and moving on to higher education or technical training.
We need good vocational programs in our schools. We need the best technology we can afford. We need well-qualified, young teachers who have ideals about educating youth for the future. And we need to pay those teachers enough to stay in West Virginia.
There are no two ways about it. Right now, education in West Virginia gets a big fat “F.” We need to cut the bull and buckle down.
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