Don’t cancel House session on education

Democratic leaders in the West Virginia House of Delegates apparently have a simple philosophy on improving public schools: Let’s not even talk about it.

House members are to convene at the Capitol on Monday, pursuant to Gov. Jim Justice’s call earlier this year for the Legislature to hold a special session on “school betterment.” State senators gathered earlier this month, approving the Student Success Act.

Senators voted largely according to party affiliation on the SSA, which passed that chamber by an 18-15 vote. Not a single Democrat voted in favor of the measure.

Delegates now will consider the SSA, along with another Senate-passed bill on education savings accounts. Like their Senate counterparts, House Democrats do not like either bill.

But if some of them have their way, there will not even be a discussion of the matter. On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, delivered a letter to the governor’s office, asking him to request that House Speaker Roger Hanshaw cancel the special session.

In his letter, Miley criticized the Senate’s approach, noting Hanshaw, R-Clay, favors multiple bills on school improvement rather than a single-shot approach such as the SSA.

Miley predicted that difference of opinion could lead to an expensive, protracted special session. “It’s time to stop wasting the money of the West Virginia taxpayers,” he added.

And, Miley cited “dysfunction between the Legislative and Executive branches of West Virginia’s government …”

Indeed, the Capitol is not one big happy family these days. Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and Hanshaw disagree on the mechanics of school improvement legislation. Justice dislikes some provisions of the SSA — and he and some Republican senators seem to be engaged in a mutual condemnation exercise.

But, as has been said, making laws is something like producing sausages: The process can be messy and unpleasant. Very few important pieces of legislation are enacted without at least some controversy.

School improvement is too important to be put off — again. Delegates should gather as scheduled on Monday and tackle the matter.

Yes, special sessions are expensive — but no more so than ignoring the need to make public schools better.

COMMENTS