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Overregulation, alas, must be regulated

THE audit of West Virginia's public school system found it so overregulated from Charleston that counties can adjust almost nothing without changing state code.

"We have encountered no other state that insulates its education system so much from gubernatorial - or voter - control; restricts local initiative so much on the part of districts . . . and vests so much authority for education at the state level."

This historic decision to insulate public education from political control had an unintended consequence: The state Department of Education effectively ran itself, the state Board of Education couldn't lead, and no one was accountable to anyone accountable to voters.

Furthermore, compared to surrounding states and selected rural states, the department had grown conspicuously larger than it needs to be.

This Charleston-based legislative and bureaucratic micromanagement has failed to produce results for students, hence the call for reform.

After intense negotiations with unions representing teacher and school service employees, which helped write the overregulation we have now, the Legislature passed Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's reform bill.

School systems must now deliver 180 days of education. They don't have to fit it into 43 weeks. Principals and teachers get a say in who is hired. There's an 11-point regulation for it.

Titanic struggle. Modest victory.

Republicans in the House complained about a lack of attention to audit recommendations, including the need to trim personnel at the state Department of Education.

Meanwhile, the House passed a bill requiring the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability to follow up with the state Department of Education on seven specified areas.

The state Board of Education is to report to the Education Oversight Commission on this and that by Nov. 1.

The House also changed state code to require school counselors to spend 90 percent of their time with at-risk students, not 75 percent as currently required.

House bills also address legislative rules for highereducation, and dropout prevention in two counties.

The problem, remember, was overregulation.

But the House is right back at it, churning out code that too many bureaucrats will spend too much time requiring local officials to document, thus taking them away from classrooms - where the kids live.

The regulatory impulse is tougher than kudzu. Faced with a report on overregulation, regulators regulate.

Sigh.

 


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