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I’ve been following the governor and Legislature’s 2021 mind-numbing attempts to force West Virginia’s laws and constitution to waste money, crush public education, poison our water and generally make life more difficult for those already suffering from poverty and systemic racism.

I couldn’t agree more with Gazette-Mail Opinion Editor Ben Fields’ column comparing us to the last aboard a sinking ship.

Many more constructive things can be done to enhance the potential of every West Virginian, aside from extractive industries. The West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy and the American Friends Service Committee recently published “State of Working West Virginia 2020,” with several proposals for joining together across racial differences to improve the health, educational outcomes and financial resources of all.

One of these suggestions, by the Rev. Matthew Watts, notes the connections between community health and educational outcomes. Research suggests a direct correlation between education levels, income levels and health conditions in communities like Charleston’s West Side. He proposes amending, expanding and reenacting the Community Development School Pilot Program, established in 2010 as an alternative to charter schools. Why can’t we do this, instead of dismantling public education in favor of a private system of religious education funded by taxpayers?

As Howard Dean says: “The path to a better future goes directly through our public schools. I have nothing against private schools, parochial schools or home schooling; parents with the means and inclination should choose whatever they believe is best for their children. But those choices cannot come at the expense of what has been, and must always be, the great equalizer in our society: a free and equal public education.”

Barbara Frierson

Saint Albans

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