- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


Oct. 30

The Herald-Dispatch on high school graduation rates:

After several years of focusing on high school graduation rates, West Virginia and many states across the nation are making significant progress.

That does not eliminate our region’s workforce readiness problem by any means, but it is a key step in the right direction.

Last week, West Virginia State Superintendent Michael Martirano reported that the four-year graduation for high schools in the state was 89.8 percent. That is a major increase from the 78 percent reported for the 2010-11 school year, when schools and states began to calculate the rate in a consistent manner.

Kentucky’s rate was 88.6 percent, and the national rate was 83.2 percent. Ohio’s rate was a little lower at 80.7 percent. The number called the “adjusted cohort graduation rate” basically reflects the percentage of high school freshmen who graduate in four years.

To put it another way, West Virginia has gone from watching almost 25 percent of its freshmen drop out a decade ago to just about one in 10 last year.

“This number is so significant because it represents real children graduating,” Martirano said in reporting the numbers at Charleston’s George Washington High School. “If children drop out of high school, they are destined for challenges: higher level of drug use and abuse, higher levels of concern, in terms of juvenile delinquency, greater concerns in terms of the incarceration rate.”

Martirano also stressed that the state had made the progress without lowering academic standards, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. The focus in schools around the state has been to identify students at risk for dropping out earlier and work with them individually to help avoid or overcome academic failures.

Many high schools have added “graduation coaches” and mentors to help individual students when they are struggling, as well as other programs to orient students and their families to what it takes to succeed and graduate.

There are still important gaps to address. The graduation rates among minority students are lower nationally, although those are improving as well. Overall, students from high poverty areas face much greater challenges.

Moreover, there is still a need to increase the rigor of the academic programs in the region so that students are well prepared for further education or job training, which is more important than ever in building a living-wage career.

But the higher graduation rate is a major step forward, and we want to salute the teachers, educators, students, parents and public support groups that help make it happen.




Nov. 2

The Charleston Daily Mail on the Affordable Care Act:

Tuesday marked the beginning of 2017 open enrollment for health care plans on the Affordable Care Act, but those who enroll will do so amid much volatility.

According to the Wall Street Journal, consumers on federal and state exchange plans are sicker and older than anticipated, meaning insurers are paying out more than expected, losing money and increasing costs across the board.

In response, several large insurers, such as Aetna and UnitedHealth Group, have pulled out of Obamacare programs. That leaves 30 percent of the nation’s counties with only one insurance provider under the exchange, the Journal reported, and Obamacare premiums have increased by an average of 25 percent in more than 30 states.

Young, healthy people on whom the program depends to keep costs down largely are not enrolling in health plans - another reason for premium increases.

All this has effects on other areas of the economy as well. When consumers have less discretionary spending, they’re less likely to use that money frivolously.

According to a September survey by Civic Science, fewer Americans are dining out. “The No. 1 reason was, not surprisingly, a worsening of their personal finances,” reported the Journal, mostly driven by health care costs.

An April survey by the National Restaurant Association found that 45 percent of consumers are dining out less often than they would prefer, and Civic Science found consumers who saw health-related cost increases were 30 percent more likely to say they were “significantly” cutting back on eating out than those who did not see increases.

“The burden these increased health care costs place on working and middle-class Americans is inexcusable,” wrote the Journal. “But Obamacare’s failure is having broader implications for economic growth. With GDP already averaging a mere 2 percent since the recession ended and hovering around 1.5 percent over the past four quarters, we should be making faster growth a political priority. That is not what the Affordable Care Act is doing.”

The premise of the Affordable Care Act was to make health care just that, affordable. However, costs in the complicated program keep increasing, leaving many Americans unable to afford not only health care, but other purchases that stimulate the economy.

Families that can’t afford to eat out due to expensive health care also will struggle with other purchases, such as a home or car, and to save for their futures.

Americans need more than affordable health care - they also need economic security. But the misnamed Affordable Care Act offers neither.




Oct. 31

The Inter-Mountain on the West Virginia attorney general’s office returning $1 million in funds:

There can be little doubt of what would have happened a few years ago, had the West Virginia attorney general’s office determined, in the days before an election, that the agency had no specific need of $1 million in its accounts.

Back then, when Darrell McGraw was attorney general, much, if not all, of the money would have been used in a re-election spending spree. McGraw was notorious for using money his office collected in lawsuit settlements for political purposes. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars were spent on novelties such as refrigerator magnets with McGraw’s name on them, to be handed out to potential voters. Funds were spent on “public service” advertising to advance McGraw’s candidacies. Still more was donated to “worthy causes,” no doubt in the hope gratitude would be shown at the ballot box.

Complaints by legislators that the money belonged to West Virginians and should be deposited in the state’s general fund were laughed off by McGraw.

Fast forward to 2016, less than two weeks before an election in which our current attorney general, Patrick Morrisey is a candidate.

Morrisey’s opponent and his special interest supporters are spending enormous amounts to smear the attorney general with what, to be blunt, are untruthful criticisms. One is that Morrisey has not done enough to combat the epidemic of drug abuse in West Virginia.

He has done an enormous amount with multiple effective initiatives. Morrisey may well have done more to fight substance abuse than any other elected official in the state. This week, he did more.

Morrisey had become aware of a backlog in drug testing at the State Police website. More resources are needed for the work.

Throughout his tenure as attorney general, Morrisey has reversed the McGraw approach. Instead of keeping every dime of money collected in lawsuit settlements, he has been returning substantial amounts to the state treasury.

On Thursday, Morrisey revealed his office will be returning another $1 million - in the hope it will be used to help the State Police laboratory reduce testing backlogs.

That much money can, if used as Morrisey hopes, make a big difference. Good for him for restoring West Virginians’ faith in an attorney general’s office that serves us, rather than the incumbent’s re-election machine.





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