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Mucking up education

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Mucking up education

Republicans should stop playing politics and let the professionals do their jobs
Editorial Register-Herald

If you thought the Republican majority in Charleston couldn’t top itself with bad legislation, well, we’re here to tell you that it is trying.

So give them an A for effort.

Under Republican majorities in both houses, the West Virginia Legislature is pushing an extreme right-wing political agenda powered by the moneyed interests of self-serving interlopers — principally, billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch — who can’t be troubled with the real issues facing our citizens when they have monopolies to build and kingdoms to rule. This is all about rock-ribbed political dogma, stamping out opposition and suppressing the truth.

Republicans profess they are pursuing a “business friendly” agenda. Has a nice ring to it but nothing could be further from reality. What they are up to is social engineering — turning the common citizenry into potter’s clay that they can mold and manipulate and fire to their own designs — socially, culturally and economically.

Three pieces of legislation speak to all of this: Via the right-to-work and prevailing wage laws, Republicans in Charleston have further diminished the role and influence of labor unions in our state and taken money out of the pay stubs of mid- and low-income workers. Through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the GOP is looking to pass legislation that is discriminatory toward gays, lesbians and transgendered people. The Legislature is telling the world that West Virginia doesn’t like certain types of people, that they are not welcome here because, you know, they don’t share “our” morals.

Charming.

Now, our esteemed leaders are making a move on education — and their first step is backward.

Seriously.

A bill that would ban Common Core standards from schools across West Virginia would also reverse the state’s educational standards to 2010. But only for a year. In 2017 there would be a whole new set of standards. So, yes, three different sets of standards in three successive school years. Getting dizzy? Think of the teachers. Better yet, think of the kids — our kids.

The House bill — HB 4014 — would call on a six-member panel of “nationally recognized experts” to establish standards in English language arts and mathematics. If the bill is successful, your children’s teachers would have to dust off ancient textbooks and be ready for school — and 2010 standards — in the fall. And who would choose these “experts”? Why, our very own Senate president and the speaker of the House. Yes, both Republicans with a shared political agenda and a serious lack of credibility in pedagogical matters.

Common Core — called Next Generation in West Virginia — is not a federal program. State education chiefs and governors in 48 states developed Common Core in 2009 as a set of college- and career-ready standards for students, K-12, in English language arts and mathematics. The goal was to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills — both in short supply at the state capitol these days.

Is Next Gen perfect? No, but it’s on the right track.

Our students need to engage in a rigorous course of study where answers don’t come easily — just like, you know, the real world. That’s at the heart of Common Core. Yes, it’s a different way forward. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it is challenging. Good. The reward is better preparation for students to compete beyond high school, in college and in the global village.

We know legislators are having problems with math (how’s that $354 million budget deficit going?), but here’s the truth: Education is intrinsically tied to our economic well being. In fact, the well being of our children is the most important indicator of a long-term economic and social future. You solve that and you fix a lot of social and economic ills our state is suffering.

And how do you do that? Let the professionals — teachers, staffs and administrators — do their jobs. That’s what a successful business in a “business friendly” state would do, right? Hire smart, talented, skilled, passionate and motivated people and get the heck out of the way.

Just don’t go back in time. That’s where dinosaurs tread.