Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and West Virginia lawmakers already have full plates for the upcoming regular session of the Legislature, which convenes in about a month. Leading the list of their worries is how to balance the state budget.
But on another pressing issue, education reform, money is not the challenge. We're already spending plenty on public schools.
Tomblin, inaugurated this past Monday for a four-year term, emphasized improving public schools needs to be state officials' top priority. He added that, "per capita, our education funding ranks among the best in the nation. But on our most important metric, student achievement, we're falling behind.
"It doesn't need to be this way - and it must stop," the governor stressed.
He is correct. West Virginia's children need better schools if they are to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.
Education is not just a function of time in the classroom, as the governor noted. Ensuring our children learn "means making sure parents become more responsible for their children and their learning," he noted. It also means doing all in our power to ensure young people are not victimized by substance abuse.
But law enforcement agencies are doing all in their power to curb substance abuse. And the courts have begun to take a hard line against parents who allow their children to skip school.
Many of those who do go to class are handicapped by parents and guardians who refuse to be part of the education team, however. There probably is little state government can do about adults who do not recognize the value of education and thus, do not support teachers.
That leaves it up to state government and local boards of education to do all in their power where they can make a difference - in the classroom. Many West Virginia schools are failing badly in that regard. And frankly, the state Department of Education does not seem to have helped much.
During the past three or four decades, any number of school reform campaigns have come and gone in West Virginia. Too often they have been based on fads that came, then went after resulting in little or no real progress. Tomblin is right: We have to get it right this time.