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Don't subsidize private education in W. Va.

House Bill 2151, which is currently under consideration by a House Education subcommittee in the state Legislature, should be killed before it has a chance to move forward to a vote.

The measure, which would grant a two-tiered tax credit for home and private schooling, smacks of elitism. Fortunately, the bill is facing strong opposition from state teachers' unions.

Representatives of the West Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers recently spoke out against the bill at a public hearing conducted by the House Education subcommittee.

Tom Lange, president of the WVEA, said his organization is not against school choice, but believes it should not be "subsidized by the state."

Lange makes one salient point when he says tax breaks for home and private schooling would remove funding that would ordinarily go to public schools.

Since many public schools are in dire need of renovations and most students attend them, removing tax dollars for private and home schooling is not a wise choice.

Many supporters of the bill say teachers' unions are entrenched special interest groups that are defending their own interests, rather than the interests of children. We say that point is moot.

If people want to send their children to private school or have them home-schooled, that's fine with us. But here's the real issue. Don't force state taxpayers to subsidize private education.

Private schooling is basically a luxury that few can afford and the children who attend them are quite fortunate. That means public schools are where the great majority of our children will continue to be educated.

We should therefore work to improve these public institutions with public funds and let alternative forms of education continue to be funded by private sources.

It would not be possible to continue raising teachers' salaries if some of that tax money were siphoned off for tax credits. And attracting better teachers is undoubtedly the best method of improving public education.

Today's editorial is a reflection of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of John G. Miller, James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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