The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

March 11, 2013

Select panel on children, poverty to meet in Beckley

CHARLESTON — All the vast education reforms the Legislature could possibly produce in the weeks ahead are destined to fail unless West Virginia comes to grip with children mired in the futility of poverty.

So believes Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, as he steers the Select Committee on Children and Poverty across the Mountain State.

A major hindrance to improving education is the failure to consider the 91 percent of the time a child isn’t inside a classroom, says Unger.

“We can have the best schools, the best facilities, the most modern technology, the best teachers in the classroom and the best curriculum you could ever have,” he said Friday.

“And you can have the child sitting in that seat physically, but mentally they’re not there.”

Instead, the poor child is agonizing over the source of his next meal, what home he reports to, if, indeed, there is a home to which he can report.

“So, if a child is not present totally, then that child is not going to perform,” the majority leader said.

Unger spoke of “toxic stress” identified by scientific research — not the typical fretting over school exams, but the very real fear of survival, on a day-to-day basis, and food is a major ingredient in such worries.

This stress is critical from the day a child enters the world through the age of 8, he said.

“And if that weighing on them actually creates a problem for the development of their cognizant ability or thinking ability, there sets in motion and locks them in after the eighth year, rewires their mind, and it’s difficult to undo,” Unger said.

“My whole argument is, if you have a healthy child, you have a healthy family. If you have a healthy family, you have a healthy community. With healthy communities, you have a healthy state. It starts right there with that child.”

Unger’s committee is conducting its first road hearing Wednesday in Oak Hill, anchored by Sens. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, and Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier.

That is to be followed by a second one March 20 at the Commission on Aging in Beckley, hosted by Sens. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, and Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming.

Unger alluded to various efforts in this session to deal with overcrowded prisons, teenage pregnancies, drug abuse and other social ills, suggesting their genesis is in childhood poverty.

“Think about what savings we could have if we just re-invested on the front end, to make sure when that child is developing, he doesn’t end up down the road that way,” he said.

“This is an investment in a future that’s healthier.”

Otherwise, the child is en route to a dim future, with poor nutrition that leads to myriad problems, not the least of which is diabetes.

West Virginia ranks 49th in education, but the state is only two rungs above that in health, the senator said.

“Where does it stem from?” he asked. “Right here, from zero to 8 years old.”

Whether some sort of 12-point plan emerges once the committee touches base in all 17 senatorial districts is difficult to say.

“More importantly, we want to change the culture,” Unger said.

And to get there, he said, the committee chairs and others making up the newly formed panel must try to view life through the eyes of a child.

Unger hopes to see a holistic view, drawing on the public and private sectors alike, to develop this culture alteration so that a child isn’t doomed at his first cry to a life of misery and failure.

“I’m convinced, theologically, that God has given us all the resources we need,” he said.

“It’s just a matter of figuring out how we use it to the maximum and also working together to address those issues.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • Sunflower 1 Unique sunflower

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • How much will annexation cost?

    City of Beckley officials say annexation would provide many benefits to outlying residents, but exactly how much would annexation cost?

    July 28, 2014

  • Not in my backyard: U.S. sending fossil fuel abroad

    As the Obama administration weans the U.S. off dirty fuels blamed for global warming, energy companies have been sending more of America’s unwanted energy leftovers to other parts of the world where they could create even more pollution.

    July 28, 2014

  • Greenbrier PSD officials worried about State Fair tunnel project

    Plans to raise a section of U.S. 219 and construct a tunnel underneath for the passage of State Fair pedestrians provided a hot topic for discussion at Friday’s meeting of the Greenbrier Public Service District No. 1 board.

    July 28, 2014

  • Beckley man places second in three-day world horseshoe tourney in Buffalo, N.Y.

    One Beckley man knows a thing or two about pitching a horseshoe. He’s been throwing for decades and he’s been to a handful of world tournaments. Recently he placed second in the 2014 World Horseshoe Pitching Tournament.

    July 28, 2014

  • saints garb new Saintly garb

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • tunnel flow Tunnel reopens after fire

    Traffic on Interstate 77 was still backed up about 14 miles in Bland County, Va., Saturday evening, but the Virginia Department of Transportation reported at about 6 p.m. that both northbound lanes of I-77 through East River Mountain were open to traffic.

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos

  • tunnel firefighters Bluefield firefighters first ones on the scene

    Lights in the southern end of the tunnel illuminate an odd design beside the catwalk near the left lane of the northbound tube of the East River Mountain Tunnel that transports I-77 from Virginia into West Virginia. Two firefighters who made the initial assault through the total darkness of the soot and smoke-filled tunnel left those marks as they slid their arms along the catwalk wall on their journey back to the light.

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos

  • Internet service providers talk shop at Broadband Summit

    Call it the Internet 101.

    West Virginia’s Internet service providers, with the help of Mike Holstine, explained how end-users in homes and businesses get the Internet, how and why they use it and the benefits of having high-speed Internet for everybody. 

     

    July 27, 2014

  • tunnel Fire closes I-77 for hours

    East River Mountain Tunnel was engulfed in a cloud of black smoke Friday as a result of a tractor-trailer fire inside the tunnel that ignited just after 3 p.m.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo