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Manchin: No 'sacred cow' in package of education proposals

Governor questioned state laws that constrain the length and time frame for the school year to 180 days

May 07, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin said during a stop Friday in Martinsburg that there is no "sacred cow" in the package of education proposals that are expected to be part of next week's special session of the State Legislature.

"If we have more money that's staying on the management (side of education) and disproportionately not getting to the classroom, something's wrong," Manchin told about 150 people at a legislative forum sponsored by Chamber of Commerce of Martinsburg and Berkeley County.

"When you have evaluation and RIFs (Reductions In Force) that only happen in the classroom or in the school, but never happen in the board (office) or happen at the superintendent's level or the state board education, something's wrong.

"That's all we're saying ... look at everything, look at everything, there's no sacred cow here," Manchin said during a 37-minute speech.

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The governor said the proposals formulated by the state Department of Education are a good package that will make the state competitive for Race to the Top federal funding and, if adopted, would truly change education in the state.

Manchin openly questioned state laws that constrain the length and time frame for the school year to 180 days as students in other education systems around the world are surpassing the U.S., some spending "200-plus" days in the classroom.

Citing statistics that the U.S. ranks first "in nothing" in education, Manchin said he has not seen any successful athlete or academic who didn't put in significant time.

"I can tell you ... the (more) amount of time you spend in any thing, the better you become," Manchin said. "Whether you agree or disagree, it's a fact."

Manchin said lawmakers hesitant to support the education package out of concern for their re-election should think about the children and put them first.

"There's never a wrong time to vote to help children," Manchin said in an interview before his speech.

Manchin's comments about the special session on education were part of a speech that spanned a wide range of issues, including the state's financial health, taxes, coal mining, the business climate and judicial reform.

Toward the end of his remarks, Manchin said lawmakers would be receiving a report on the state's tax system.

Before 1932, when West Virginia adopted a new state constitution, the state "picked up maybe 30 to 35 percent of the tab" with the counties responsible for the rest, Manchin said. The change in the 1930s left the state's 55 counties with about 10 percent of the governing authority and fiscal control, Manchin said.

While "whole heartedly" supportive of returning more autonomy to each of the state's 55 counties, Manchin said the tax system in place now is not designed to accomodate some of the changes desired.

"We have our racing revenues, our gaming revenues ... people want to keep more of them locally," Manchin said.

Coal-producing counties and counties where higher consumer sales tax or personal income are generated for state coffers feel the same way, Manchin said.

"Well, if we're going down that road, then maybe we should change the constitution. If not, we've got to be very careful of where we're going," Manchin said.

Manchin's appearance at the Chamber's annual forum was his first, and was his second visit to Martinsburg this week.

On Tuesday, Manchin joined state transportation officials and community leaders in Martinsburg for the Raleigh Street Extension groundbreaking ceremony.

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