W.Va. must have effective schools
For decades, West Virginia public education officials have said they need more money to produce better results for students. West Virginians don't have more money.
So Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin commissioned an audit of how effectively West Virginia spends the money it does pour into public education.
The results were not pretty.
As educationalliance.org put the matter, the state ranks eighth in education expenditures relative to income and per pupil expenditures - a total of $3.5 billion in fiscal year 2010.
West Virginia also ranks seventh in salaries (not counting benefits) relative to the state's income levels.
"Unfortunately, this considerable commitment of funds has not equated to a high level of achievement," the alliance said gently.
"West Virginia students score below the national average on 21 of the 24 indicators of student performance as reported by the National Assessment of Education Progress."
That is a disservice to students and to taxpayers, and it has blighted the state's economy for decades.
The current arrangement - a state Department of Education virtually unaccountable to anyone, even the state Board of Education - has not worked for far too long.
West Virginia must change it.
This week, a dramatic sign of that: The state Board of Education fired the state superintendent of schools, Jorea Marple. Her loss was lamented by the teachers unions that have shaped school policy for decades.
Marple is a thoroughly decent, hard-working person who has spent her life in public education. Her dismissal was marred by unnecessary roughness that stemmed perhaps from the unprecedented nature of the act.
Politics, critics charged.
Well, yes. Public education has not produced good results, and the political system just signaled that it will hold the educational system accountable.
That's not evil; that's good.
Firing Marple, by itself, won't fix the problems. But the political system signaled that it controls the educational establishment, not the other way around.
Educators should lead, follow or get out of the way.
It's a start.