West Virginia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
Charleston Gazette on an education bill:
The omnibus education bill lurched through the West Virginia Senate on Monday, as expected, with an 18-16 vote. All 14 Senate Democrats and two Republicans voted against it.
The gambit by Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, to go around the Finance Committee, where Kenny Mann, R-Monroe, likely would have killed the bill, paid off. Now, Senate Bill 451 is in the House of Delegates and is already the topic of arduous debate.
The bill, which would do many things, including establish charter schools, education savings accounts and weaken the teacher unions, while also tying in a raise for teachers, doesn’t seem all that popular among legislators, educators or the public.
It’s true that West Virginia spends a lot on education and doesn’t produce the results it should. But a massive bill that is being rushed through isn’t the answer anyone, other than Carmichael and Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, wants. Even Republican Gov. Jim Justice has said he will veto the bill and would prefer to handle the issues separately.
So, against all the hue and cry, why are Carmichael, Rucker and others in the state GOP holding fast? Is it because the 2018 teacher strike that drew national attention and sparked movements elsewhere put egg on Carmichael’s face? Does he hate organized labor that much that he wants to cripple it any way he can, regardless of what the people want? Is he gambling that another teacher strike — already being discussed — won’t have the same groundswell of support that it did a year ago, and this time, if teachers walk out, public patience will be shorter?
It could be all or none of those things. The problem with this entire situation is that political gamesmanship is being placed above the real bottom line of public education policy, and that’s the students.
West Virginia’s students are not best served by the constant shifting of standards and policy in public education caused by battling bureaucrats. They’re not best served if their teachers — already underpaid and overburdened — have to picket every year to ensure their wages and insurance are secure, let alone that their unions remain healthy.
Do students benefit if public funds are diverted to create a landscape for charter schools? Even if Carmichael, Rucker and others believe this is the case, they did it in a way that smacks of cynicism and subterfuge. They bypassed the process with a junk bill.
Now it’s up to the House and, failing that, the governor to make sure this government serves the will of the people and what’s right for West Virginia students.
The omnibus bill should be rejected, with whatever parts are worth keeping evaluated in separate legislation, always with the key goal of what benefits the student in mind.
The Intelligencer Wheeling News-Register on a state bill to give parents and guardians new routes to seek student immunization exemptions:
Parents and guardians who have legitimate medical or religious reasons for concern about having their children immunized against disease should be treated fairly and with consideration by state officials in West Virginia. That should go without saying.
But some of those who say no to protecting their sons and daughters base their objections on superstition, vague fears of the health care system or social media myths that have been discredited for years. When they refuse to have children immunized, they increase the risk of disease spreading through the general population.
A bill introduced in the state Senate, SB 454, would give parents and guardians new routes to seek exemptions from the rule that children in schools be immunized against various diseases.
SB 454 continues the policy of providing exemptions from the immunization law based on religious conflicts or legitimate health care concerns. But it adds a worrisome section, providing that exemptions can be permitted for “either a conscientious or personal objection .”
That provides an enormous loophole for those whose objections to immunization have nothing to do with religion or medical situations.
Some may wonder what is wrong with allowing such parents or guardians to put their own children at risk. Several things:
First, of course, the children who have no say in the matter can suffer lasting harm if they contract one of the diseases in question. In rare cases, they may die.
Second, unprotected children can serve as disease transmitters. Washington, among the most liberal states in permitting exemptions from immunization rules, recently declared a state of emergency because of a measles outbreak that sickened 42 people.
If there are reasonable concerns that some children who should be exempted for medical or religious reasons are being forced into vaccinations, they should be addressed. But telling the parents and guardians all they need is a “personal objection” is irrational — and possibly dangerous. SB 454 should be shelved.
Bluefield Daily Telegraph on safe tax season practices:
With tax season now underway, so are a plethora of tax-related scams. That’s why area residents are being asked to exercise vigilance this tax season against potential scams.
This includes protecting sensitive information like Social Security numbers, financial information, birthdates and addresses and other personal information that scammers could easily use to defraud taxpayers.
“Scammers are aware of tax filing deadlines and could be waiting to take advantage of your personal information,” West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey said. “It’s imperative that consumers be mindful of how they handle tax information and who processes tax-related documents on their behalf.”
According to the attorney general’s office, consumers can greatly reduce the risk of fraud by filing their return well before the April 15 deadline. This gives thieves less time to file a false return since IRS records would show a filed return in the consumer’s name. Consumers also should use a secure internet connection and never file their return via publicly available Wi-Fi, Morrisey said.
The attorney general’s office also recommends the following safeguards:
. Never carry a Social Security card, banking information or any other personally identifiable information in a wallet. Residents should instead keep such documents in a secure location.
. Cross shred documents. Identity thieves rummage through trash to find information.
. Be wary of emails that may look legitimate at first glance: check for questionable display names, email addresses, names and spelling.
. Use caution with any unsolicited phone call, text message, email or social media post as impostors will use various means to threaten consumers and steal their personal information.
Morrisey said unsuspecting victims of tax-related identity theft often receive a letter from the IRS saying it received multiple tax returns filed in the victim’s name or indicate the taxpayer received wages from an employer he or she does not know.
Anyone who receives a letter from the IRS indicating potential impersonation should immediately call the agency’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
Consumers who believe they may be the victim of tax-related identity theft should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office at 1-800-368-8808 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.