Education: Public input is vital to any legislative proposal
West Virginia legislators are taking a much better approach to public school improvements than they did last winter. This time around, they are setting the initiative up for success.
After the “omnibus education bill” was killed in the Legislature, Gov. Jim Justice called for a special session on the topic. It will be held sometime during the next several weeks.
One complaint about the process was that lawmakers did not get enough West Virginians into the loop in writing the omnibus bill. That should not be a concern this time.
Public meetings on the topic have been held throughout the state, by both the West Virginia Department of Education and other entities, including school personnel unions.
At the decision-maker level, legislators have been active, too. They began by discussing charter schools with Justice. His hardline opposition to them appears to have softened as a result.
In addition, the state DOE has placed leading legislators of both parties on a special committee on school funding. Among them are architects of the failed omnibus bill, as well as critics of it.
State Senate President Mitch Carmichael has said a substantial amount of agreement exists among education stakeholders. Some issues have not been resolved, he said.
It is virtually inconceivable that any meaningful school improvement bill will not face some criticism. Legislators and Justice should not insist on 100 percent agreement before convening the special session.
They should get the public involved, however. Just as soon as a proposed education bill is written, it should be made public — a week or two in advance of lawmakers going back to Charleston. Educating West Virginians about the proposal will be crucial in getting a bill enacted.