Bad Form

Changed bill would reduce school time

Somehow, a proposal that should have been relatively benign in regard to public schools became one that could reduce the amount of time students are being taught. That is the last thing West Virginians need.

Early in the Legislature’s annual regular session, Delegate John Kelly, R-Wood, introduced a bill intended to require that schools open no sooner than Sept. 1 of each year and end no later than May 31. Assuming some allowance is made for inclement weather, that should be achievable.

But during the legislative process, something happened to Kelly’s bill, which is HB 2433. An amendment was made, reducing the number of required days of instruction in public schools. The current mandate is for 180 days. Only 170 would be needed to comply with HB 2433, should it be enacted.

Proponents of that change argue it would not be detrimental to the education process. How is that possible? Cutting two full weeks of classes out of the schedule would have to have an effect.

Kelly’s bill is moving through the House this week. Some lawmakers want to pass it, but to leave the 180-day rule in place. Kelly, pointing out the 170-day change “was never part of my original bill,” agrees with the 180-day stipulation.

Good. Lawmakers should not enact HB 2433 in a form that gives teachers less time to teach.

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If the Bladensburg cross has to go, what’s next? If U.S. Supreme Court justices rule a cross erected to honor a group of men who gave their lives for our country cannot be on public land, what about similar situations? What about the small crosses in national cemeteries, marking the graves of some veterans?

Just after World War I, a group of people in Bladensburg, Maryland, decided to honor the 49 men from their area who had perished in the conflict. They erected a 40-foot, concrete cross with a plaque naming the war dead.

Now, a lawsuit has been filed, demanding the cross be dismantled. Plaintiffs say that, because it is on public land, it violates the “establishment clause” of the Constitution. That is the section that bans government from favoring one faith over another.

U.S. Supreme Court justices were to hear the case today.

Among those who say the cross should stand are officials from 29 states. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is leading the coalition. Its members contend the case is a key one in safeguarding religious freedom.

It is. Government should not discriminate in favor of or against any particular religion. But the Bladensburg cross is merely what one community chose nearly a century ago to honor its war dead. Labeling it as government endorsement of Christianity is making a mountain out of a molehill.

Morrisey is right: Leave the cross alone. Surely there are more clear and present dangers to liberty.

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