Most political speeches like a State of the State address are filled with optimism and achievement.
Indeed, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin spoke of many reasons for hope in his third such speech at the state Capitol Wednesday night, painting a portrait of West Virginia that would make any state native proud.
But he also shared his concerns about issues that threaten us, revealing a stark, yet realistic, picture of the Mountain State.
In his 46-minute message to West Virginians, Tomblin used the term “unacceptable” quite frequently, as a matter of fact.
He called for vast changes in education, no doubt inspired by a recent critical audit of West Virginia’s public education system.
Further, he stated that education stands at the top of his priority list.
The statistics he shared bore out why education is one of the most vital of all issues facing West Virginia, and one that can either turn us around for the better with improvement, or prove to be the catalyst of an even deeper downfall if not corrected.
Educational rankings near the bottom in the nation drew the ire of Tomblin in particular.
Tomblin named a recent survey by Education Week in which West Virginia ranks 49th. It gave the state an “F” for student achievement.
He also said the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ rankings of the state were below national averages in all but three of 24 categories.
Also disturbing is the West Virginia high school graduation rate, at 78 percent. Tomblin also disclosed that the state has the highest percentage of those between 16 and 19 either not in school or not working.
The governor is aware of the challenges that confront the state and its citizens.
Tomblin also touched on drug abuse, prison overcrowding, highways and job creation.
But it seems that in many issues faced, it comes back to a quality education as a helpful remedy, or at least a part of the overall solution.
With all that we face, it comes with the tightening of purse strings. Major budget reductions are necessary for the next several years, and the economic outlook is mostly stagnant, according to most experts.
In other words, it’s going to take prudent budgeting and cooperative work to accomplish all that our state needs to assure itself of a status that is stable or perhaps even thriving.
Our hope is that the leadership that he has shown as governor in the last two years, and in the past as president of the Senate, will continue, guiding our state to a brighter future.