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What if Feed To Achieve fails?

THIS year's session of the West Virginia Legislature was the most productive in at least 20 years.

Legislators can say they moved toward solving the problem of being eighth in support of the public schools but only 47th in academic achievement.

Legislators passed a comprehensive education reform act that includes adding another grade to school by expanding pre-kindergarten.

On top of that, legislators cleared the way to make breakfast and lunch free to all students in school, not just the 53 percent whose parents are so poor that they qualify for free or reduced lunches already.

Then there is a comprehensive prison reform act that will ease prison overcrowding, improve the recidivism rate, and save money.

Legislators found a solution to just about every problem in the state except the governor's receding hairline.

But what if the reforms do not work?

What if expanding pre-kindergarten fails to push West Virginia to the top or even middle in education?

Will we pull the plug?

History shows we won't. Adding kindergarten failed to turn around schools in West Virginia as advertised, and yet kindergarten continues.

I also doubt Feed To Achieve will improve test scores.

My pessimism is based on the failure of the free and reduced-price lunch program or its younger brother, the breakfast program, to improve education.

Feed To Achieve is based on a false premise that the reason children do poorly in school is that they are hungry for food.

The real problem is they lack a hunger for knowledge. Instilling such a hunger is the job of the parent, not the government.

West Virginia schools should be a graveyard of failed ideas.

Decreasing the size of classrooms failed. Block scheduling failed.

Beating the national average in spending per pupil failed. New schools failed. Computers in schools failed.

But despite their failure, these programs live on in the West Virginia education system.

This is how the government operates. Too many failed programs never die.

Consider the U.S. Department of Energy, which Jimmy Carter promised would make America less dependent on foreign oil.

Thirty years and maybe a trillion dollars later, our dependency on imported oil had increased.

It has fallen in recent years, but that is courtesy of a recession, which reduced demand, and fracking.

But the energy department continues. How else will the government give grants to and guarantee loans for companies like Solyndra that are politically connected?

Democrats promised that Obamacare would reduce premiums, eliminate the uninsured, and reduce the debt.

Three years later, premiums are up, there's no notable improvement in the number of the uninsured, and the national debt continues to rise.

Maybe next year it will work.

I doubt it. After more than 30 "next years" in the War on Poverty, the percentage of Americans living in official poverty is higher than when the war began.

Why should I believe that Obamacare will work?

Politicians promise new programs will solve our problems, but when those programs fail, the politicians refuse to pull the plug on the programs.

Instead, politicians reward the failure with increased budgets.

The one exception is prisons. When a prison reform fails — such as the one in Massachusetts that gave weekend furloughs to murderers — the public outcry is so loud, the government shuts down the program.

I have a feeling prison reform will succeed because if it does not, the state will drop the reform like a hot potato.

Until we hold education reform to the same standard, any attempt at a turnaround is doomed to failure.

Surber may be reached by  email at


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