Editorials from the Exponent and Telegram for June 8

WVEA serves state's teachers, not students

Does anyone else get annoyed by the West Virginia Education Association's posturing? The teachers union is now feuding with the state Board of Education about school financing -- and again trumpeting how much it cares for the state's children.

The WVEA joined a lawsuit challenging how public schools in West Virginia are financed; the state board said it was "disappointed" by that, and the WVEA responded by saying it's just doing it for the children.

"Nothing in the history of the WVEA's advocacy on behalf of both school children and education employees should have led anybody to be disappointed that the association would initiate legal participation on the side of what it believes is best for West Virginia's children," said union President Kevin Boggs.

The WVEA is a teachers union, not a child advocacy group. It furthers the interests of teachers, not (despite all its posturing) the interests of students.

There's nothing wrong with that. A union is supposed to serve the interests of its members. What's so annoying is that the WVEA tries to ennoble its cause by constantly proclaiming that it serves the interests of West Virginia's children. It's the same effect a politician hopes for when he kisses a baby.

Does the United Mine Workers claim to be concerned with what's best for the utilities and steel companies that burn coal? In contract negotiations, does the UMW demand better coal and more coal for coal-burning customers? Of course not. It demands what's best for its members -- better pay, better benefits and more job security.

And that's what the WVEA is after -- better pay, better benefits and more job security for its members. Again, there's nothing wrong with that. Teachers have a job so important and so difficult, they deserve the best pay and best benefits the state can afford. Nor is there anything wrong with the WVEA joining the lawsuit over school financing.

It has been 16 years since the Recht Decision decreed West Virginia's way of financing public education unfair because it relies too much on county property taxes. The state needs to be pushed to change the system.

But the WVEA shouldn't claim it intervened in the suit for the sake of the state's children. It intervened for the sake of the state's teachers: A new school financing system would mean better pay for teachers in the state's poorer counties.

We don't have a problem with what the WVEA wants, just the way it goes about trying to get it. We wish the WVEA would quit kissing babies.

-- Tim Langer


Boys, Girls State are special opportunities for high school juniors

We have nothing but praise for the American Legion and its Auxiliary for annually holding Mountaineer Boys State and Rhododendron Girls State.

The experiences in leadership provided to high school juniors -- those who have excelled academically -- after the academic year has ended are unequalled.

Chances are, if a student has been an extraordinarily high achiever, that student will be selected as a representative of one of several organizations that place a high value on academic accomplishments.

This week, Mountaineer Boys State is taking place at the State 4-H Camp at Jackson's Mill in Lewis County, and Rhododendron Girls State is being held in a dormitory setting at Wheeling Jesuit College.

We congratulate Boys State Chairman William E. Reynolds and long-time Girls State Chairman Pauline Clayton for their tireless efforts to make these programs a success each year. This involves helping to instill within these youngsters a respect for the U.S. Flag and belief in God -- the creed of the Legion and Auxiliary.

When the students -- or "delegates," as they are referred to -- arrive at their respective sites, they are assigned to either the Federalist or Nationalist party. They're given the opportunity to study local, county and state government processes.

Mock elections are held at both camps. Party leaders are selected, platforms are adopted and, finally, the elections are held. All the "fun" of an election takes place, including the campaigning, the balloting and even an inauguration banquet.

Traditionally, the governor of West Virginia delivers the keynote address at both camps, as long as there's no conflict in his schedule.

Another special tradition of Boys State and Girls State is the selection of two delegates from each to represent West Virginia as "senators" at Boys Nation and Girls Nation, held at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Here, they get exposure on the democratic process at the national level.

We regard it as a rare but wonderful honor for those students fortunate enough to be selected as delegates to Boys State and Girls State, because not only are they receiving an expert "quick course" in government functioning -- they are given the opportunities for making new and lasting friends for the remainder of their lives.

--Robert F. Stealey

Clarksburg Publishing Company, P.O. Box 2000, Clarksburg, WV 26302 USA
Copyright Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999