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Keep control at the local level

October 21, 2013
Weirton Daily Times

State Board of Education members agree West Virginians ought to have more local control over public schools. To that end, county school boards will have more latitude regarding when classes start and end each year.

But they'd better not hand out cupcakes.

Most of the time, local control over schools is good. State government should merely tell county boards of education what students are expected to achieve, then get out of the way. Mountain State residents should insist county educators do their jobs adequately.

Part of the education reform initiative approved earlier this year by the Legislature seems aimed at furthering that ideal. It allows the state board of education to give county boards more flexibility in when they begin and end classes each year, as long as they provide the required number of instructional days.

Earlier this month, state board members followed through by revising their official policy on the matter.

So far, then, so good. State officials appear to "get it."

Unfortunately, federal education bureaucrats do not. In large measure that is a function of the reality that unless Washington establishes and enforces mountains of regulations, the regulators won't have jobs.

Some teachers in Harrison County, W.Va., apparently thought it would be nice to hand out cupcakes to students around Halloween. They checked with their county superintendent, who consulted the state Department of Education.

No way, the teachers were told. A state official wrote that "federal regulations preclude us from relaxing the nutrition standards that are currently in place."

This is absurd. Handing out sweets to children once or twice a year isn't going to harm anyone.

But the rule is just one of literally thousands West Virginia educators have to follow, or face loss of federal school funding.

It is quite a racket: The federal government takes our money in taxes, then tells our schools they can't have it back unless they toe Washington's line on everything from cupcakes to curriculum.

Why even bother with county and state boards of education? Too often, they act merely as pass-throughs for federal rule makers.

This needs to end. West Virginia's delegation in Congress should lead a campaign to end Uncle Sam's dictatorship over public schools.

 
 

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