We want to express our appreciation for all of the 500 men and women in the West Virginia National Guard, along with 3,700 others from nearby states, who are being deployed to the Middle East to continue aiding Operation Spartan Shield.
These soldiers can never be repaid enough for the sacrifices they make to protect the interests of our nation by training U.S. allies in unstable regions and providing support operations in what can become active combat zones. Previous deployments have lasted as long as a year, and, while they make this sacrifice willingly, it has to be a terrible strain on friends, family and other loved ones who will wait anxiously for their return. We hope that all will come back safe and sound.
There’s nothing funny about more than 10,000 homeless students enrolled in West Virginia public schools. There’s nothing insignificant about a 17 percent jump in that number over the past two years.
West Virginia Schools Superintendent Steve Paine seemed to grasp neither of those concepts in a meeting this week or in a subsequent interview with the Gazette-Mail.
Paine is correct that there is a huge problem in meeting the education needs of the massive number of children in foster care and addressing the crisis of children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. That doesn’t mean it’s not equally alarming that so many West Virginia children have to attend multiple school districts a year or are never caught up with, or never able to focus on, what is happening in school because they don’t know where they’ll be staying that night. Paine knows better.
The Gazette-Mail reported this week that Boone County is facing serious financial problems with a looming $2.5 million budget shortfall. The blame falls mostly on dwindling population because of lost coal jobs and dwindling revenue because of lower income from the coal severance tax.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a unique problem in West Virginia, although Boone County’s drop has been more precipitous than some.
County officials have little choice but to look for areas to cut the budget. The problem there, of course, is that talk of fiscal shrewdness and “belt-tightening” is one thing but actually having to make cuts is quite another. Any cuts that eventually come will mean less of something, which leads to a lesser community, whether it be less money for community programs or less money for public safety. It all detracts from the quality of life, in one way or another, in the long run.
Boone County is in a tough spot, and officials will find that all they can do with less is, well, less. It’s not the county government’s fault. It’s not the people’s fault. It’s the result of building communities based around one industry. As coal continues to fade, there’s nothing there to fall back on.