Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told members of the state media last Thursday that he expects when the 81st Legislature convenes later this week that he believes “a great deal” of the time during the 60-day regular session will be spent on education.
That sounds accurate to us based on the build-up and the rhetoric we’ve been hearing out of Charleston for several months now.
But what remains to be determined is whether or not this is actually the time when Tomblin and the Legislature are going to take the deep plunge and enact effective, meaningful education reforms.
Without being too detailed, Tomblin says his education package, which will be presented to lawmakers within the first 10 days of the session, will likely include issues related to the school calendar, improvements to reading instruction at the elementary level, and providing county school systems more autonomy.
It sounds like a good start to a complex problem that may well take a number of years to completely accomplish.
But it has to get started.
Just a few years ago then-Gov. Joe Manchin summoned legislators to Charleston for a special session to tackle education reform and, try as he did, Manchin wasn’t able to get lawmakers off the proverbial dime.
Now, following an extensive independent audit of the state’s education system — that Manchin first called for before leaving the Governor’s Mansion, and Tomblin saw through — the legislative and executive branch appear to be poised to finally act.
In the end, what happens between now and April 13 may well be the focal point of Tomblin’s legacy as a longtime state leader because, of his many accomplishments, none will likely having more lasting effects than that of seeing through truly significant changes to improve the quality of education we are providing to our children and young adults.
We hope that’s what history will record for Tomblin and this group of lawmakers.