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West Virginia editorial roundup

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 12, 2015 at 2:05 pm •  Published: August 12, 2015

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


Aug. 12

The Journal, Martinsburg, West Virginia, on state's Common Core standards:


Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson, the new superintendent of Jefferson County Schools, told our reporter last week that's the most important aspect of a school curriculum.

"What happens when you change standards and change tests frequently is you're sort of jerking the teachers around ... and that's what's frustrating for them," Gibson said.

What she was responding to was the controversy over West Virginia's "Next Generation" — Common Core — standards, a repeal of which the highest ranking members of the state Legislature say will be a major topic of conversation at next month's interim meetings and the 2016 legislative session.

West Virginia's Next Generation standards have only been administered for one school year, and results of the first round of testing have not even been made public yet.

Senate President Bill Cole, the Republicans' top candidate for governor, joined Speaker of the House Tim Armstead last week in announcing the plan they hope will eventually lead to a repeal of the standards.

"We must find a way to improve our student achievement and fix our education system, and the way to begin that is to eliminate Common Core in West Virginia," Cole said in a prepared statement.

The first part of that statement is absolutely true. We must improve how the youth in our state compare academically to those in the rest of the nation. But the second part remains up for debate.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler — one of the two top Democrat candidates for governor — defended the standards Tuesday morning on MetroNews Talkline, arguing that a uniform set of standards that compare students not only within the state, but across the country, helps make them more competitive and career-ready.

Is Cole right? Is Kessler? How can we possibly know yet?

Common Core comes with its questions, and it should be re-assessed regularly, but to be ready to eliminate it after just one year without a new set of standards ready to replace it is irresponsible.

We will find no consistency in education until we're ready to commit to a method of teaching our students in the long term. With Common Core's pros and cons being used as simple fodder for political grandstanding, we risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater and going back to square one unnecessarily.



Aug. 12

Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette-Mail on proposal from President Obama's administration to help coal communities:

Several coal corporations, including Alpha Natural Resources and Patriot Coal — have filed for bankruptcy in recent weeks. Value of their stocks and bonds sank into the cellar. Numerous mines have closed, and thousands of miners have been laid off. Painful suffering is felt in Southern West Virginia coal counties, exacerbating existing problems of poverty and drug addiction.

Most of this slump is attributable to a flood of cheap natural gas, to depletion of good Appalachian coal seams, high company debt and the fall of coal prices. Yet West Virginia leaders blame it all on federal pollution controls and a supposed "war on coal." They offer nothing to help devastated coal communities.

In contrast, the Obama administration proposes a wide array of efforts to rescue hard-hit coal towns. The White House 2016 budget contains a "Power Plus Plan" that would:

. Pump $200 million per year for five years to clean up abandoned strip mines, which could create multitudes of jobs for laid-off miners.

. Add $5 million for "brownfields" work cleaning up pollution at coal-fired power plants.

. Give $20 million to retrain ex-miners and help them find new jobs.

. Grant $25 million to the Appalachian Regional Commission for efforts to create new businesses and upgrade water, sewer and telecommunications infrastructure.

. Add $6 million more for "place-based regional innovation efforts" to spur jobs in distressed coal communities.

. Award $3.9 billion over a decade to shore up pensions and medical care of retired miners.

All this sounds like the only sensible plan to resuscitate stricken counties. Too many West Virginia leaders, who don't want to acknowledge to voters the long-predicted decline in coal jobs, are criticizing Obama's plans instead of embracing them. Count the elected leaders who urge generation after generation to hitch their wagons to coal, even while coal companies continue to get out of pension, health care and pollution obligations in bankruptcy court.

Frustrated, the president complained about coal-state resistance:

"They will claim this is a 'war on coal' to scare up votes, even as they ignore my plan to actually invest in revitalizing coal country and supporting health care and retirement for coal miners and their families, and retraining those workers for better-paying jobs and healthier jobs."

Obama added: "I want to work with Congress to help them, not to use them as a political football. Partisan press releases aren't going to help those families."

It's time to stop political ranting about a fabricated war on coal. It's time to help communities ravaged by coal's hard times. So far, only President Obama is offering a sensible plan.



Aug. 12

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on states' urban white-tailed deer hunting:

The resurgence of the white-tailed deer is one of America's great wildlife management success stories.

A century ago, deer had been almost hunted out of existence. States responded with limited hunting seasons and other restrictions, and today the nation's deer population is estimated to be more than 20 million. Unfortunately, that growth has come not only in the forests and woodlands but also in suburban or even urban areas.

That can be an unhealthy co-existence. Deer not only do significant damage to landscaping and gardens, but they can also spread disease. Moreover, once they adapt to an area, their reproduction can be staggering. One study in Michigan showed a herd of six deer in a confined park grew to 222 in seven years.

That is why so many areas have used limited urban deer hunts to thin the population, reduce the damage and keep a reasonable balance for suburban areas.

Eleven cities in West Virginia now use the hunts annually, and Division of Natural Resources wildlife chief Paul Johansen told the Charleston Gazette-Mail this week they have been an "unqualified success."

Typically, hunters are allowed to use bows and crossbows, and most of the West Virginia hunts occur a few weeks before the fall deer archery season. Deer that are killed are logged in the DNR tracking system, but they do not count against the hunter's seasonal bag limits.

Many areas of Huntington have an overpopulation of deer, and city government should take a look at the successful hunt model in other cities and start a hunt here. That will help reduce the damage to property and make sure the problem does not get worse.



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