|By Dianne Weaver|
Linda Martin, coordinator for Challenge WV, says most West Virginians are
aware of the powerful movement to de-construct community schools,
consolidate and create long bus rides.
The state of West Virginia has spent 15 years experimenting with efforts to
initiate educational policy and infrastructure changes through redistricting
and has spent over $1,000,000,000.00 (that's correct-over one billion
dollars) in their efforts at consolidation that has resulted in the closure
of more than 300 schools.
More are on the block.
The promise: save money, efficiency, better curriculum and better results.
WV educators have ignored the research and politicians have bought the
Martin maintains the consolidation movement will have a lasting detrimental
impact beyond the social life of our rural communities, student academic
performance and overall safety and stability of children.
The movement will likely de-construct citizen control of public education.
"Fewer citizens are aware that state bureaucrats (beyond the federal No
Child Left Behind act) have been given more control of public education by
the WV legislature, control has been taken away from local school
boards and the citizens who elect them," she said.
"The future of public
education is certainly at stake."
Martin says "Even fewer citizens are aware that the next attack on community
schools is the blurring of county lines, which will certainly wrestle
control from poor, under-populated rural counties," likely the elimination
of local school boards, much like the elimination of county governments.
In many parts of the state, students are encouraged to go to a school of
choice," which is often in another county, at times in another state.
a policy widely supported by many parents and has been the object of a
political sell nationwide.
Challenge WV fellow Thomas Ramey and Lincoln County school board member
says "Most supporters of choice have not taken the time to consider the end
Ramey says Lincoln County may be the first case where the shifting of a
large number of students to a neighboring county could bankrupt their school
Martin contends WV citizens have been reaching a boiling point, trying to
maintain community-based education, citing a bill overwhelmingly passed by
the House of Delegates in the last session, but then stalled in the senate's
The bill called for a local vote before school consolidations could move
"It was a grass roots measure. The delegates got the message from their
constituents," Martin said, "And those who shot it down had better pay
"State educators wanting more control will be challenged," she concluded.