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Poll: 36% say education on decline in state

CHARLESTON — More than half of West Virginians — 54% — believe primary and secondary education in the state is about the same.

But 36% say it’s getting worse, according to the latest edition of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll.

Ten percent say the schools are getting better.

“Ideally, in any kind of endeavor where you’re trying to serve the public, you want your satisfaction levels in the 70, 80, 90% range so it’s hard to get a very high percentage range when you’re talking about something as broadly as public schools,” said pollster Rex Repass, president of Research America, which conducts the West Virginia Poll.

“But 10% saying that they think public schools are getting better is a relatively small number. And 36% say they’re getting worse.”

The MetroNews West Virginia Poll included 402 interviews with registered voters across all
55 counties from Aug. 16-26. The confidence level is +/- 4.9 percentage points.

West Virginia’s scores on a national education bellwether this past year amounted to the state’s lowest performance ever.

That was for the 2022 results — the most recent — from the National Assessment of Educational Progress assessing math and reading performance for fourth and eighth graders.

West Virginia ranked 50th in fourth-grade reading, 49th in eighth-grade reading, 50th in fourth-grade math and 50th in eighth-grade math.

“We thought it would be worthwhile to ask questions about perceptions overall of public education in the state and then what possible solutions that West Virginia voters might have and how they would prioritize those,” Repass said.

Poll respondents were asked to choose among a series of possible ways of improving overall quality of education in primary and secondary schools.

The most common response, selected by 57% of respondents, is to pay teachers more.

State leaders have passed four pay raises for educators during the span of the Justice administration, including this year.

More possible measures also received varying levels of poll support: improving technology in the schools with 47% of respondents, providing more federal money for programs at 43% and reducing class sizes at 35%.

The bottom two policy proposals among poll respondents were providing more school vouchers at 22% and providing more charter schools at 16%.

Candidates for West Virginia’s governor discussed ways to improve educational performance as they gathered on one stage for the first time during a forum at the annual business summit sponsored by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

Participating in the forum were Republican competitors for governor: House Judiciary Chair Moore Capito, who is the son of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito; auto dealer Chris Miller, who is the son of Congresswoman Carol Miller; Attorney General Patrick Morrisey; and Secretary of State Mac Warner.

Miller said the education system has too many bureaucratic barriers.

Warner described himself as a former teacher who knows the importance of every minute in front of a young student. He also said he understands the importance of accountability from his time at West Point.

Morrisey focused his answer on school choice initiatives.

“I want to make sure the money follows the child much more aggressively, and West Virginia will always have the broadest school choice law in the country,” Morrisey said.

“Number two, we’re going to have to build on the success of charter schools. We need to do things differently so we’re not 50th in all the categories that matter.”

Capito said his 5- and 8-year-old children demonstrate the importance of the education issue. He also advocated for a bill passed by the Legislature this past session, the Third Grade Success Act, which is meant to provide greater support in early grades.

Capito also advocated generally for school choice issues: “That starts with providing school choice for parents. I’m a parent; I think I know what’s best for my kids, and I think you all know what’s best for your kids. So we implemented school choice.”