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Tomblin has a chance to do what he does best

In the 1972 movie "The Candidate," Bill McKay, after an unlikely victory in a U.S. Senate race, asks blankly: "What do we do now?"

Rigorous campaigns focus on winning, not on governing. Yet at some point when a candidate prevails, he or she must make the transition, and it's not that simple.

Campaigns are greased by effective ads and myriad promises. Often, candidates avoid controversial positions because they know it could cost them votes.

But elected officials, if they are going to be successful, understand that progress through governing does not come without tough, decisive leadership.  

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, following his victory over Republican Bill Maloney, must now move out of the near-constant campaign mode he has been in for nearly two years.

He has four unobstructed years to govern, though he'll no doubt be labeled a lame duck after the 2014 midterm elections.

It's important for Tomblin, if he wants to be known for something more than a caretaker governor, to set a bold agenda, beginning with the next legislative session in February.

A good starting point would be public education.

West Virginia's system of operating its public schools has devolved into a top heavy, inflexible and expensive bureaucracy that makes innovation nearly impossible.

As a result, students are underachieving when compared with national results.

We're locked into an antiquated system that pays all teachers the same regardless of ability or outcome. Restrictive hiring and firing guidelines are built into state law.

Teachers are burdened with paperwork, while living with the constant threat that tough grading or disciplining of students will be met by angry, defensive parents.

Everyone knows there are problems, but they tend to speak in hushed tones because the status quo always has its zealous defenders in powerful positions.

We know that the governor's office, as well as the state Board of Education and key legislative leaders, have studied the audit of the school system that was released nearly a year ago.

The unvarnished report detailed ways to save millions of dollars while also improving outcomes.  

The state school board purposely waited until after the election to release its response. It did so Wednesday, and the response calls  for action, not just more study.

Now Tomblin, if he's bold, can do what he does best, work behind the scenes with legislative leaders and constituent groups to build a case for substantive reform, then sell it to the public, starting with his State of the State address.

These kinds of opportunities don't come along often.

Earl Ray Tomblin was re-elected, at least in part, because voters believe he is the best person to lead the state.

The public education issue is a perfect opportunity for Tomblin to demonstrate that voters got it right.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.


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