Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W.Va., on state truancy:
By most accounts, an initiative in West Virginia to reduce truancy has shown some success in most of the counties where it has been implemented. But in less than a year, the new crackdown on truant students and their parents has exposed a bottleneck that should be addressed for the new program to continue successfully.
The truancy-reduction program was pushed hard last year by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, with the justices urging circuit judges, prosecutors, school systems and social service agencies to work together on the problem. Truants and their parents were brought into court and asked to explain what kept the children from attending school. If there were roadblocks to attendance, solutions were sought. And the students and their parents were told to work at getting the children back in class in a regular basis.
The push certainly caught the attention of many students and parents, and there has been evidence early on that the new focus has reduced truancy rates. Yet, in some cases the student and/or the parents aren't reacting positively to the message. If a student still fails to attend school and a judge rules the student is an offender or the parents are charged with neglect, the state's Department of Health and Human Resources is asked to step in. DHHR workers are to provide services such as parenting instruction and mentoring for children and also may have to deal with substance abuse issues and neglect.
And that's where the bottleneck has occurred. DHHR workers' caseloads have grown tremendously in areas where the anti-truancy effort has been pursued aggressively. And some say the agency isn't equipped to provide the services that the families need. ...
... it's time to find solutions to the problem now as the truancy initiative continues to gain steam. The answer may involve redeploying staff or adding new case workers, which shouldn't be ruled out as alternatives for tackling such an important issue. Perhaps DHHR officials need to pursue other alternatives with other agencies partnering in this endeavor. But an answer should be found, because it's important that the services to help students stay in school are available.
The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on bureaucracy:
We know a Charleston executive who invested $130,000 in a BB&T portfolio in 2008, just before the stock market sank. His holdings dwindled to $94,000 worth, then slowly recovered. By 2010, he broke even. He never withdrew any earnings from the portfolio.
Then IRS slapped him with a $15,000 claim for 2010 taxes on his "income" from the investment — although he got no income. His accountant fought the claim, and said IRS owed him a refund instead.
Then IRS countered with a claim that he owed $952 tax on the nonexistent income. How could he owe income tax when there was no income? How did a $15,000 demand drop below $1,000? Finally he paid, not understanding the mess, but wanting to be rid of it.
Why is bureaucracy so confusing and chaotic? Many middle-class people cannot file income tax returns by themselves because the process is baffling, a maze of mind-boggling technicalities. They need experts to cope with the tangles.
We know a computer specialist who entered business for himself and paid a variety of state business taxes. But state officials claimed he never paid, and threatened legal action. After he tracked down his canceled checks, the bureaucrats apologized.
Other Charleston business figures have told us similar tales of bureaucracy nightmares and bewildering tax hassles — of lost time, energy and sleep.
Dealing with state and federal agencies shouldn't require an expensive crew of lawyers and tax experts. We wish bureaucracy could become more user-friendly.
The Inter-Mountain, Elkins, W.Va., on state vaccination policy:
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources' new requirement of certain vaccines for students in seventh and 12th grades has sparked some controversy throughout the state and locally.
The policy stipulates that seventh-graders receive a Tdap vaccine booster and a dose of the meningococcal vaccine, while seniors get a single dose of Tdap and a booster dose of the meningococcal vaccine if the first dose was given before the age of 16. However, there is an exception, and that is if the student receives a letter from his or her doctor stating that the vaccination cannot be administered for a medical reason. Medical is the key word here.
Huttonsville resident Phil Hudok approached the Randolph County Board of Education saying his daughter, who is in her senior year at Pickens High School, would not receive the vaccine because of religious convictions. A local physician had submitted a letter to the school system stating that rationale.
However, that argument doesn't hold up in West Virginia or Mississippi - the only two states that do not allow a religious exemption for vaccines. The DHHR says simply this: no immunization without medical reason equals no admission to school.
Randolph County isn't the only school system in West Virginia to hear parents raise the issue. ...
The local school boards shouldn't be the target of criticism. They have to follow the rule.
Meanwhile, the students are holding steadfast to their beliefs. They're also losing valuable time in the classroom.
Is the requirement fair, especially in the case of religious convictions? Well, that's an issue for a lengthy debate and it's likely we'll be hearing plenty of opinions in the coming weeks.
It seems a solution by the state and the courts is needed sooner, rather than later. Our students need to remain healthy. They also need an education.