GOP Budget Slashes Higher Education and Threatens to Close Schools

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Governor Jim Justice alerted West Virginians to the public health care emergency that would be created if the Republicans implemented their budget cuts to Medicaid. Today, the Governor is shining a spotlight on how the Republican budget cuts are putting the state’s colleges and universities on the chopping block.

The GOP’s proposed framework means between $50 million and $75 million cut from the state’s institutions of higher education.  Click HERE to see the complete list of schools exposed to their plan.

Governor Justice echoed the calls of Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert and West Virginia University President Gordon Gee to the West Virginia Legislature not to make “devastating” budget cuts to higher education.

“The Republicans don’t want to let the people of West Virginia know just how destructive their cuts will be to higher education,” said Governor Jim Justice. “They need to own up to the fact that West Virginia’s schools can’t afford to take a hit like this and may result in several of them shutting their doors. If we strangle our schools into oblivion it will hurt our students and the future of our workforce. It’s not right and the public needs to be aware of it.”

President Gee and President Gilbert released a joint statement yesterday asking state legislators to take higher education cuts off the table in trying to balance the state budget, citing how the universities have already had to endure millions of cuts in previous years.

“President Gee and I are taking a stand together in support of preserving state funding for higher education as an investment in the future of our state and its people,” said Gilbert. “It doesn’t make sense to cut off one of the primary paths a state has to successful economic growth—and that’s an educated workforce. Higher education is absolutely vital to having the workforce companies want when they are looking to locate or expand facilities.”

Gee said, “I realize it may seem easier to cut our way to success. However, the worthier option is to invest in those things that will bring prosperity to our state. The best way to propel West Virginia into prosperity is to leverage its assets. West Virginia University, Marshall University and our sister institutions here in West Virginia are assets to this state. And we remain committed to helping our state’s leaders forge solutions that will drive real change.”

“Marshall alone has had $11.5 million in state cuts over the past several years. Another significant reduction in our state allocation will give us no choice but to effectively pass the cut directly on to our students in the form of a sizeable tuition increase,” said Gilbert. “That will be a real hardship for our students, three-fourths of whom are from West Virginia.”

Gee added, “We have always protected our academic mission and done our best to keep our tuition affordable and accessible. However, West Virginia University has taken nearly $30 million in state reductions over the past three years. Any additional significant reductions would jeopardize the quality and value of an education that a student at West Virginia University receives, as well as the programs and services we provide to the state.”

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“However, the worthier option is to invest in those things that will bring prosperity to our state.“

It hasn’t worked so far.  What makes Mr. Gee think it is suddenly going to start working?  Fairy dust?

Pat McGroyne

By Pat Mcgroyne  on  03.24.2017

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DHHR Announces Emergency Energy Assistance Program for Low Income Residents

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The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) today announced applications for the Emergency Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) will be accepted beginning Monday, March 27, 2017, until funds are exhausted.  The federally funded program assists eligible state residents who have a termination notice in paying their home heating bills. 

Residents whose primary source of heat is either gas or electricity must provide their shut-off notice when applying for Emergency LIEAP. Those using other primary heating sources or bulk fuel may qualify for assistance if their heating fuel is at a low level during the application period.

Households that received direct payment of regular LIEAP benefits must verify that the payment was used for home heating by submitting a current receipt with the Emergency LIEAP application. Failure to submit verification of payment may result in a denial of the application.

Eligibility for Emergency LIEAP benefits is based on income, household size, whether or not the household is responsible for paying its home heating bill, and if a home heating emergency exists.  Income must be at, or below, 135 percent of the federal poverty guideline for the household size.  This program requires a face-to-face interview with a DHHR worker and clients must provide a copy of their termination notice with the application.

To qualify, households must meet all program guidelines and be in an emergency situation that will disrupt the primary heating source if not met.

 The maximum allowable gross income levels for Emergency LIEAP Fiscal Year 2017 are listed below:



1   Person


2   Person


3   Person


4   Person


5   Person


6   Person


7   Person


8   Person


9   Person


10   Person


For each additional person, add $468. 


The program is limited to the amount of federal funding allocated to West Virginia under the LIHEAP Block Grant.

To apply, residents must go to their local DHHR office. A list of local offices may be found at or by calling 304.356.4619.

Explore Land Resources Programs at GSC

Faculty in Glenville State College’s Land Resources Department and staff in the Office of Admissions invite prospective students to attend an event to learn more about the Natural Resource Management programs offered at GSC. Land Resources Exploration Day will take place on Friday, April 07 beginning at 9:15 a.m. at GSC’s Waco Center.

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The open house event will feature activities for interested students to learn about wood identification, geocaching (treasure hunting using a GPS), wildlife trapping, soil and water analysis, fun with land fundamentals, and more. There will also be information on career opportunities in natural resource management.

For more information call the Office of Admissions 800.924.2010 or click HERE to sign up.

“Spring Aboard” — Boaters Urged To Get Educated Before Boating Season

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Section, in partnership with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), encourages boaters to enroll in a boating education course before the kickoff of the boating season. WVDNR is participating in the “Spring Aboard” — Take A Boating Education Course national campaign through March 25, 2017.

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U.S. Coast Guard statistics indicate that 80 percent of boating deaths, where the level of operator education was known, occurred on boats where the operator had never received boating education instruction.

“To be a safe boater, you have to be educated. These Boater Education courses are vital to promoting a safer, more enjoyable day on the water. In addition, a ‘Sober Skipper’ is a safer boater,” said Col. Jerry B. Jenkins, Chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Section.

Forty-nine states and U.S. territories require proof of completion of a boating education course of some powered vessels. In West Virginia, all persons born after December 31, 1986, must complete a boating education course before operating a motorboat in the state. For a summary of West Virginia’s regulations and available Boater Education courses,  visit

The WVDNR Law Enforcement section offers both online courses and in-class courses, which are taught by experienced Boater Education instructors and Natural Resources Police Officers.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  47 of 55 West Virginia counties lost population last year

U.S. Census figures show population declines in West Virginia’s southern coal-producing counties led to an overall drop in the state’s population last year.

The figures released Thursday show 47 of the state’s 55 counties lost population from 2015 to 2016, including 20 counties that lost more than 200 residents.

Nine of the 10 counties that lost the most population were in southern West Virginia, which has seen a downturn in the coal industry in recent years. Kanawha (kuh-NAW) County lost 1,966 residents, the most in the state.

Three Eastern Panhandle counties saw population gains, led by Berkeley County with a boost of 1,890 residents.

Monongalia County, home of West Virginia University, gained 631 residents.

Overall, West Virginia’s population fell by 9,951 to 1.83 million. The only state to lose more residents was Illinois.

►  Steve Paine is the new WV superintendent of schools

Members of the state Board of Education voted for Steve Paine to be the new superintendent of schools.

Paine was state superintendent during the Manchin administration from 2005-2011. He’s currently the interim superintendent in Wayne County.

Paine starts Monday at a salary of $230,000 a year.

Tom Campbell, the state school board president, said it worked out well that Paine is available right away because of the challenges the state is facing. The state’s public education system could be subject to significant budget cuts under a proposal by the Republican leaders in the state Legislature.

“Whatever they work out, getting that budget administered for the next fiscal year is going to be a challenge,” Campbell said after today’s state board meeting.

He replaces Michael Martirano, who had announced his departure for this summer but who instead will leave immediately. The board issued a public statement thanking Martirano for his service. Martirano has been superintendent since 2014.

“He was most gracious when I talked to him on the phone. We do thank him for his service and wish him well,” Campbell said.

The other candidates for the job were current state Chief Career Technical Education Officer Kathy D’Antoni and Jackson County Superintendent Blaine Hess. The three finalists were chosen from an original list of 12 applicants.

All three were interviewed today. Members of the state school board came out from an executive session about 4 p.m. and voted unanimously for Paine as their choice.

“They were all good candidates,” Campbell said. “We’re hopeful they’re all going to stay involved in the education system. The consensus the board came up with was at this time Dr. Paine is the best person for this job.

“Having had the position before, he does have a great deal of experience with the position and how to implement it.”

Paine joined the West Virginia Department of Education in 2003 as the deputy state superintendent of schools after serving as superintendent of Morgan County Schools. He has also served as principal, assistant principal, teacher and curriculum director in the Upshur and Harrison county school systems. Paine is the recipient of the prestigious Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award. Paine has an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership Studies, and an M.A. in Educational Administration. He also has a B.A. in Education.

“I am humbled to be appointed as the Superintendent of Schools and once again serve the students throughout West Virginia,” Paine stated in a release from the state Department of Education.

“I am committed to ensuring that our education system provides all children the opportunity for a world-class education and I look forward to working closely with the State Board, Governor Justice, our lawmakers and educators to prepare the students of the Mountain State to be successful in life.”

Gov. Jim Justice, who campaigned in part on doing away with the Smarter Balanced standardized test and the A-F school grading system that were products of Martirano’s time in office, has largely made over the state school board in a matter of weeks.

Early Wednesday evening, Justice named appointed Jeffrey D. Flanagan of Kanawha County and Frank Vitale of Monongalia County as the newest members of the board. In January, the governor announced the three new members all at once — longtime educators Miller Hall, Barbara Whitecotton, and Chuck Hatfield. In early February, Justice named educator Dave Perry of Fayette County to the board.

The presidents of West Virginia’s teachers unions, interviewed at the Capitol Rotunda, said they are enthusiastic about Paine’s return.

“We’ve worked with Steve in the past when he was superintendent before. We have a good relationship with him. We know he is favorable to the students, to the teachers who teach the students and all school employees,” said Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia.

“We really believe he can work with the department, with the state board and with educators to move us forward.”

Dale Lee, the president of the West Virginia Education Association, had a similarly positive reaction.

“He is very teacher-friendly, cares tremendously about the kids of West Virginia,” Lee said. “I’m looking forward to him starting on Monday and moving the state forward. It’s time for all educators come together, united, and fight off some of the crazy things that are happening in public education.”

Lee said a top priority is to fight off possible cuts to the state’s K-12 education system.

“That would destroy public education in many of our counties,” he said. “We need to all unite and say enough is enough.”

►  Traffic Stop in Nebraska Leads to Major Marijuana Bust in West Virginia

Nearly 20 pounds of pot was found at a home on Bradford Drive in Crab Orchard on Wednesday, March 22, 2017.  Benjamin Villanave was arrested and charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver.  He was arraigned in front of a Raleigh County magistrate.

The Beckley- Raleigh County Drug and Violent Crime Task Force was tipped off about the home after a traffic stop in Seaward County, Nebraska.  The driver of the car had $57,000 and told deputies that it came from a marijuana sale in Raleigh County, WV.  Homeland Security contacted the West Virginia State Police.

During the search of the Crab Orchard home, officers found 19.48 pounds of marijuana.  According to a release, that is worth around $80,000.  There were also 51 canisters of THC oil, $6,000 in cash and 13 guns.

►  West Virginia Senate Considers Hike in Video Lottery Wager

West Virginia’s Senate has begun advancing legislation to increase the maximum wager to $5 for a single video lottery game.

The bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee also would set the state share of gross profits from limited video lottery revenues at 50 percent starting July 1.

The current wager limit is $2.

The state profits share has ranged from 30 percent to 50 percent, rising with the average daily gross income per terminal.

The legislation is poised for a vote by the full Senate.

►  Governor Justice Tells Contractors They Play A Key Role In Building A Brighter Future For West Virginia

outing his $2.8 billion Roads Building plan and how it will rescue West Virginia’s dying economy, Governor Jim Justice spoke Wednesday to more than 200 contractors, engineers, architects and others during the opening of the annual West Virginia Construction and Design EXPO at the Charleston Civic Center.

“We’ve got to do something to get out of the ditch we’re in,” Governor Justice said. “My roads plan is the pathway to prosperity for West Virginia. We are talking about 48,000 jobs, good jobs, instantly. Once we get started it will open up our state to real progress…tourism will explode. I’m tired of being 50th and if we don’t do something about it right now we’re going to die 50th.

“We’re better than that in West Virginia,” Governor Justice added.

“Again, this transportation building plan is going to put tens of thousands of West Virginians to work immediately. The payroll taxes alone that will be generated comes to greater than $250 million…that doesn’t even take into account the multiplier effect.

“You have to believe me when I tell you we are on the cusp of catastrophe if we keep kicking these problems down the road,” Governor Justice stated. “If we don’t move prudently and move now, this will spiral out of control and we won’t ever be able to fix it.”

Governor Justice went on to say that Senate Finance Chairman Mike Hall and House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson recognize the severity of the state’s fiscal crisis and that “they get it, they understand it”.

Michael Clowser, executive director of the Contractors Association of West Virginia, said his group, that represents 450 companies that employ more than 20,000, is on board with what the Governor is trying to do to jumpstart road and bridge construction and maintenance in the Mountain State.

“Governor Justice has put forth an aggressive plan to invest in West Virginia’s transportation system,” said Clowser. “His proposals will provide immediate improvement to West Virginia’s highways and bridges which have reached a critical state of disrepair.

“The Governor’s plan will also provide an immediate benefit through job creation and economic growth. Another compelling argument is safety. West Virginia’s fatality rate on rural roads is three times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.  Every surrounding state has invested in their highway program. We are pleased Governor Justice is doing the same for West Virginia.”

►  House to vote Friday on eliminating Department of Education and the Arts

A bill that would eliminate the state Department of Education and the Arts is scheduled for third and final reading Friday in the House of Delegates.

The bill (HB 2524) eliminates the cabinet secretary’s office and the Office of Professional Development. It returns the Educational Broadcast Authority and the state Library Commission to independent status. It shifts state Office of Rehabilitation Services to WorkForce West Virginia and the Division of Culture and History to the Department of Commerce.

Education and the Arts oversees various commissions which appear to run well on their own, House Education Committee Chair Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson) said.

“It appeared inefficient to continue to have to leave a secretary of the commissions all of whom existed and operated well for many years and are led by capable governor appointees,” Espinosa said.

The language of the bill focuses more on eliminating the Office of Professional Development. It says the state Board of Education shall come up with a system for professional development and help the individual counties to the extent they need it. Professional development be from the bottom up, Espinosa said.

“It empowers our local school districts, our principals as the instructional leader of their school, to work collaboratively with their educators in their school to determine what professional development they need rather as opposed to determining it here in Charleston,” Espinosa said.

Delegate Larry Rowe (D-Kanawha) was unsuccessful in his attempt to amend the bill Thursday. Rowe said the arts will lose its advocate if the cabinet secretary’s office is eliminated.

“When the governor and the cabinet are sitting around trying to figure out all of the ‘gotta’ stuff, ‘We gotta fund Medicaid. We gotta do this. We gotta do that.’ Who is it at the cabinet level–who in that meeting is going to tap on their shoulder and say, ‘What you gotta do is help the dreams of our youth,‘” Rowe said.

The short title of the bill is “Improving the focus on school-level continuous improvement processes.”


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  • GOP governors chafe at Trump budget:    “They have complained to the White House about reductions they see as harmful or arbitrary, and they plan to pressure members of Congress from their states to oppose them. Of acute concern to Republicans are a handful of low-profile programs aimed at job training and economic revitalization, including regional development agencies like the Appalachian commission and the Delta Regional Authority, which serves eight Southern and Midwestern states, seven of them with Republican governors. They are also protective of grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a $3.4 billion job-training program funded through the Labor Department.”  NYT

  • Homeland Security pressures sanctuary cities:  “On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released its first report listing jurisdictions that refuse cooperation with federal immigration authorities … The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) on Tuesday questioned the constitutionality of ICE detainers and the truthfulness of the DHS report.”    The Hill

  • Donald Trump has his eyes set on Mars — but at the expense of Earth’s environment.  Trump on signed the NASA Transition Authorization Act, which adds a human mission to Mars to NASA’s agenda while also green-lighting a $19.5 billion budget for 2017. But it’s not all good news — Trump’s proposed budget would repurpose money from cuts to four Earth Science endeavors, most of them climate-related.  MIC

  • ‘Trump Troubadour,’ who attended 45 Trump rallies to honor his late son, feels ‘betrayed’ because of health care  Trump told Kraig Moss he would help stop the heroin epidemic. But now the president is backing a health-care bill that strips away coverage for drug addiction treatment.  THE WASHINGTON POST

  • “White Working-Class Death Rate to Be Elevated for a Generation”:  “Researchers who sounded the alarm on increasing white working-class mortality blamed the trend Thursday on economic upheaval that created a web of social issues so tightly interwoven that even successful policies would take years to unsnarl them … ‘The story is rooted in the labor market, but involves many aspects of life, including health in childhood, marriage, child rearing, and religion,’ the authors wrote. Without their traditional moorings, whites increasingly turned to chemical crutches. Alcoholism worsened. Suicide climbed. And when doctors began to hand out opioid prescriptions more freely during the 1990s, addiction took root.”    Bloomberg

Did You Know?

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Abandoning negotiations, Trump demands a make-or-break vote on health care legislation in the House, threatening to leave “Obamacare” in place and move on to other issues if Friday’s vote fails.


The 52-year-old Briton who was shot dead during the rampage near Parliament had a long criminal record and once was investigated for extremism — but was not on a terror watch list.


Senate Democrats vow to impede Judge Neil Gorsuch’s path to the Supreme Court, setting up a political showdown.


Israeli police nab a 19-year-old hacker who they say is the main suspect in the wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers in the U.S.


The deepening U.S. involvement against Islamic State militants in northern Syria indicates the Pentagon will likely send even more troops in coming weeks.


A Maryland high school is thrust into the national immigration debate after a student is allegedly raped there by two students who came to the country illegally.


The approval on Friday will end years of delay for a project that has served as a flashpoint in the national debate about climate change.


The documents point to an apparent CIA program to hack Apple’s iPhones and Mac computers using techniques that users couldn’t disable by resetting their devices.


New research says more cancer-causing mutations are due to random chance than heredity or poor lifestyle choices.


John Thompson III is fired as Georgetown’s basketball coach after two consecutive losing seasons at the school his father led to a national championship.

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AT&T and Verizon are pulling their ads from YouTube and other sites that run Google ads

Companies are boycotting Google after it was revealed that some of their ads have appeared next to extremist videos on YouTube.

Advertising executives suggested the Google boycott smacks of “opportunism” and a chance to gleefully bash the biggest player in the online ad industry

Companies like L’Oreal, McDonald’s, Audi, and HSBC have also pulled their ads.

Apple has acquired an app called Workflow

The iPhone maker described the automation app as the “most innovative” app in 2015.

Facebook’s Safety Check feature was activated in London after the Westminster attack

The feature asks people in the area of the incident if they are safe, and publicly marks them as such if they say they are.

Google veteran Vint Cerf warned against suppressing the internet

Some countries, such as Germany, are looking to tackle the issue of fake news being published online.

Baidu’s value took a $1.5 billion plunge after chief scientist Andrew Ng announced he’s leaving

Ng joined Baidu in May 2014.

Microsoft’s LinkedIn is starting to roll out a new feature called “Trending Storylines”

The feature highlights multiple perspectives on the biggest news of the moment.

Google is updating its popular Maps app with new features to let friends view each other’s location in real-time

The location-sharing only works if you decide to share your current location with a specific person, and you can limit how long a friend sees your location.

A law firm is trying to put together a class action lawsuit claiming Tesla misled consumers about the self-driving capabilities of Autopilot 2

Hagens Berman is pitching the lawsuit to Tesla owners on its website with the tagline: “Did you pay a premium for Tesla’s Autopilot 2 (AP2) safety features? You may be entitled to a refund.“

Fitbit was trading at a record low of $5.46 a share on Wednesday, down another 2.5%, or $0.14

Back in November, the company reported disappointing third quarter earnings that saw Fitbit lose one-third of its value.

In USA….

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►  Top 10 U.S. Jobs in 2017

In the market for a new job? Consider one of these, which jobs website Indeed ranks as the top 10 jobs of 2017. Indeed put its rankings together based on number of job postings, growth opportunity data from 2013 to 2016, and salaries of at least $70,000, USA Today reports. Roles in tech and computer science dominate:

  1. Full stack developer: Average base salary $110,770
  2. Data scientist: $129,938
  3. Development operations engineer: $123,165
  4. Salesforce administrator: $89,702
  5. IT engineer: $85,563
  6. Salesforce developer: $108,089
  7. Quality engineer: $71,111
  8. Digital project manager: $73,169
  9. Cloud engineer: $118,878
  10. Management consulting analytics manager: $90,994

Click for the FULL TOP 25.

►  Utah Man Killed in London Terror Attack

Not much was initially revealed about the two civilians killed in Wednesday’s terror attack in London, which also ended in the death of a British cop and the attacker being gunned down by police, but now there are a few details on at least one of the deceased: a Utah man celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife in the British capital. The Salt Lake Tribune identifies the man as 54-year-old Bountiful resident Kurt Cochran, who reportedly plummeted off the Westminster Bridge onto a concrete surface below when the attacker plowed his vehicle into pedestrians. Cochran’s wife, Melissa Payne Cochran, is said to be one of the dozens of others who were injured, with a head cut and broken rib, though she’s expected to be OK.

In a message on Facebook, Shantell Payne, whom the Tribune says is Cochran’s sister-in-law, called the tragedy “heart wrenching and raw” and said it had “rocked our family.“ She also posted a link to a GoFundMe account to raise money to help Melissa Cochran—who the Tribune says ran a music and rehearsal studio with her husband—pay her bills while she’s recuperating. The GoFundMe, which has so far raised more than $13,000 of a $50,000 goal, notes that the couple were spending their last day on a European tour visiting Melissa’s parents, who are members of London’s Mormon temple. Trump called Cochran “a great American” in a Thursday morning tweet, sending “prayers and condolences” to the Utah man’s loved ones.

►  19-Year-Old Israeli Busted in JCC Bomb Threats

A Jewish teen with American-Israeli citizenship is behind dozens of threats made against Jewish community centers in the US, Israeli police say. The 19-year-old male living in the Ashkelon area of Israel was arrested Thursday after a months-long investigation involving the FBI, Israeli police rep Micky Rosenfeld tells CNN. Police say the teen used neighbors’ internet connections, voice manipulation, and other “advanced camouflage technologies” to hide his identity while making threats against Jewish centers in the US, Australia, and New Zealand, the New York Times reports, via Israel Radio. However, police believe he’s also responsible for hundreds of other threats around the world over two or three years, reports Haaretz.

Those include threats against shopping malls and airports. In one case, he forced a Delta flight to make an emergency landing, police say. Authorities say five computers, antennas, and other equipment were seized from his residence. Per Haaretz, the teen tried to grab the gun of an officer who arrived to arrest him; he was previously found unfit for military service in Israel. Police had previously said they were searching for a single individual believed to be behind the majority of more than 100 bomb threats made against Jewish centers in the US this year. “This is the guy we are talking about,“ Rosenfeld says. The teen appeared in court on Thursday.

►  Sword Killer Went to NYC to Attack Black People, Cops Say

A white US Army veteran from Baltimore bent on making a racist attack took a bus to New York, the “media capital of the world,“ randomly picked out a black man who was collecting bottles on the street, and killed him with a sword, police said Wednesday. James Harris Jackson turned himself in at a Times Square police station early Wednesday, about 25 hours after Timothy Caughman staggered into a police precinct bleeding to death. “I’m the person that you’re looking for,“ Jackson told police, according to Assistant Chief William Aubrey. Jackson, who was arrested on suspicion of murder, told police he’d harbored feelings of hatred toward black men for at least 10 years, authorities said. He traveled to New York on March 17 and had been staying in a Manhattan hotel, the AP reports.

“The reason he picked New York is because it’s the media capital of the world and he wanted to make a statement,“ Aubrey said. Jackson was wandering the streets in a long overcoat concealing a 26-inch sword when he encountered Caughman, who was collecting bottles from trash cans, police said. Jackson stabbed him repeatedly in his chest and back, they said. Caughman, who was 66 years old and lived nearby in a transitional house, was taken to a hospital by police shortly after he arrived to the station house. He died at the hospital. Investigators said they believed Jackson was considering other attacks but surrendered after noticing his photo in media reports. He had two knives and told investigators where they could find the sword, police said. The sword was retrieved from a trash can not far from the scene.

►  Lawyers Want ‘Affluenza Teen’ Released From Jail

Lawyers for Ethan Couch are asking the Texas state Supreme Court to release the “affluenza teen” from jail, NBC DFW reports. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a judge sentenced Couch to 720 days in jail last April after he skipped a probation check-in and ran to Mexico with his mother. The pair went on the lam following the release of a video that apparently showed Couch partying in violation of his parole. Lawyers for Couch say the judge didn’t have the authority to sentence Couch to jail time because the judge only has purview over criminal cases. They say Couch’s is a civil case because it originated in juvenile court, the New York Daily News reports. Couch’s case was transferred to adult court when he turned 19.

Couch was sentenced to 10 years’ probation in 2013 when he crashed his pickup truck into a group of people helping a disabled vehicle. Couch was drunk at the time, and four of the people died. A psychologist defending Couch said the teen never learned the difference between right and wrong and was suffering from “affluenza” thanks to his rich upbringing. Couch’s lawyers filed the motion to release him from jail last Friday. The motion has already been denied twice in lower courts.

►  Guy Who Knew Dylann Roof’s Plan Sentenced

The only person with whom Dylann Roof shared his racist plot to massacre worshippers at a historically black South Carolina church was sentenced Tuesday to 27 months in prison for failing to report a crime and for lying to the FBI. Joey Meek cried at sentencing Tuesday in Charleston by the same federal judge who presided over Roof’s trial, which ended in January with Roof being sentenced to death for the slaughter of nine people at Emanuel AME church. “I’m really, really sorry. A lot of beautiful lives were taken,“ said Meek, per the AP. Meek had faced 27 to 33 months behind bars. US District Judge Richard Gergel said he hoped the sentence would serve as a deterrent for anyone in the future who learns of something so serious and fails to come forward to authorities.

Meek said Roof shared his plan to shoot blacks at the historic African-American church in Charleston during a night at Meek’s house where they drank vodka, snorted cocaine, smoked marijuana, and played video games. Authorities said that was about a week before the June 17, 2015, killings. Meek signed a deal with prosecutors in 2016, agreeing to plead guilty to lying to authorities and failure to report a crime. Federal prosecutors said he had lied to the FBI by first denying Roof shared his plan. Authorities said he also had stopped a friend from calling police after hearing about the shooting to report Roof as a suspect. Meek agreed to help prosecutors as part of his 2016 deal. But they never called him during Roof’s trial, in which Roof acted as his own lawyer for much of the proceedings and put up almost no defense.

►  Bill to Let Church Create Police Force Advances in Alabama

A bill designed to allow a church to have its own police force is moving forward. Alabama’s Senate judiciary panel has passed a measure that would let Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham create the force, reports NBC News. The force would coordinate with local police to protect the 4,100-member church, which has 2,000 students and teachers at two K-12 schools and a seminary on its sprawling campus, says the church’s administrator. He cited the recent attacks on churches and schools as the motivation for the move, while a concerned member tells the AP, “Anyone can wander in here unchallenged at any time.“ The bill now moves on to the full Senate.

“Officer presence is the No. 1 line of defense,“ says longtime Republican Representative Arnold Mooney, who introduced the bill and whose wife and daughter work at Briarwood Christian School. The ACLU of Alabama is among those opposing the bill on constitutional grounds, along with another that would allow churches in the state to appoint armed congregants to provide security with legal protections: “These bills unnecessarily carve out special programs for religious organizations and inextricably intertwine state authority and power with church operations.“ The AP notes that the police-force bill passed the Legislature last year, but Governor Robert Bentley did not sign it. Bentley has not said what he would do this year.

►  9/11 Lawsuit Filed Against ‘Duplicitous’ Saudis

A lawsuit representing the families and estates of about 800 victims of 9/11 has been filed in Manhattan federal court, with the Saudi Arabian government in its sights, WPIX and NBC News report. Of the 19 plane hijackers that day, 15 were Saudi nationals, and three of those reportedly had employment history with the government there. Accusations in the newest consolidated complaint, compiled in large part via an FBI investigation, include embassy officials being instrumental in assimilating some of the 9/11 attackers into the US via English instruction, funding assistance, and help in finding a place to live. Saudi authorities also allegedly offered special passport codes to a handful of the terrorists that smoothed their way into the US. The suit also says Saudi royals turned a blind eye regarding money they donated to certain “charities,“ which was really being shifted to al-Qaeda.

“The Saudis were so duplicitous,“ aviation attorney Jim Kreindler tells WPIX, noting while Saudi Arabia was putting up a good front as a US ally, it was secretly enabling terrorism. (USA Today notes Kreindler’s law firm is handling the new suit, which is seeking unspecified monetary damages.) Per NBC, more than a half-dozen lawsuits against the Saudi government have filtered into federal court since September, when Congress rejected then-President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which gave families of 9/11 victims a way to circumvent sovereign immunity to sue the Saudis. Obama was against JASTA, saying the tables could be turned so other nations can file suit against the US. Attorneys for families and the Saudis are to appear in court Thursday to hammer out the multi-case logistics.

►  Spring Breaker Sees His 210 Beers Go Down the Drain

While his buddies were partying in Destin, Fla., an Alabama teen spent the start of his spring break in jail. Police in Okaloosa County, Fla., say they pulled over 19-year-old University of Alabama student Alden Whiteside on suspicion of reckless driving on Friday but soon discovered his alleged need for speed was just the tip of the iceberg, reports KTRK. Authorities say Whiteside was traveling to Destin for spring break with seven 30-pack cases of Natural Light beer, plus a fake ID and pot. “He basically had 30 beers for each day he was going to be [in Florida],“ a police rep tells the Northwest Florida Daily News. Whiteside now faces charges of unauthorized possession of a driver’s license, underage possession of alcohol, and possession of marijuana.

“If you’re only 19 years old and heading to spring break in Destin with seven 30 pack cases of beer in your truck, marijuana in the center console, and an altered driver’s license to make your age 24, you probably don’t want to be speeding and driving recklessly on Interstate 10,“ reads the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office caption of a photo of the stacked beer cases, viewed more than 11 million times on Facebook. “We hope [the photo] reaches and convinces a multitude of spring breakers to make good choices,“ the sheriff’s office says in a separate post, adding in a comment that, yes, all the beer was poured out. A parting quip that’s been liked more than 25,000 times: “All the dumb decisions and it started off with buying natural light.“

In The World….

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►  Fortune Names World’s 10 Best Leaders

The world’s greatest leaders aren’t necessarily heading countries. Indeed, the greatest leader is US politics is an Army general, according to Fortune‘s fourth annual list of the world’s 50 greatest leaders. However, each individual on the list—43 of whom appear for the first time—“acknowledge reality and offer hope,“ “bring followers physically together,“ and “build bridges,“ Fortune explains. The top 10:

  1. Theo Epstein, Chicago Cubs president
  2. Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba
  3. Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church
  4. Melinda Gates, philanthropist
  5. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
  6. Ava DuVernay, film director
  7. HR McMaster, US National Security Adviser
  8. Tsai Ing-wen, president of Taiwan
  9. John McCain, US senator
  10. Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany

Click for the FULL LIST.

►  American Girl Steals Pope’s Hat During Vatican Visit

Luckily for little Estella Westrick, Pope Francis is known as the forgiving type. Us Magazine reports a Vatican official lifted the 3-year-old girl up so the Pope could kiss her cheek Wednesday, and she took the opportunity to steal his hat. “It was hilarious,“ Estrella’s godfather, Mountain Butorac, tells CNN. “Everyone was laughing, including the Pope.“ Estrella eventually returned the Pope’s zucchetto. The girl was visiting Rome with her family from Atlanta. Butorac tweeted a video of the hat-snatching incident.

►  North Korea May Have Ordered $81M Theft at NY Fed

Investigators initially suspected the hackers who stole $81 million from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York last year while posing as Bangladeshi bankers weren’t actually from Bangladesh. Now, they’re apparently pointing the finger at North Korea. While investigators believe Chinese individuals or businesses carried out the attack, they suspect North Korea directed “one of the biggest bank robberies of modern times,“ sources tell the Wall Street Journal. Officials confirmed that theory, per Reuters. Sources say investigators have linked the code used in the robbery to the 2014 Sony hack, which the FBI previously blamed on North Korea.

Private security researchers have also said both attacks used similar code and techniques. “If that linkage is true, that means a nation-state is robbing banks,“ says Richard Ledgett, the deputy director of the National Security Agency. “That is a big deal; it’s different.“ Some, however, say the hackers of the New York Fed—who may be responsible for similar attacks against banks in Ecuador and Vietnam—could have altered code from the Sony attack, which the US government later released, meaning there may be no link to North Korea at all. Charges against the Chinese suspects are possible, while Treasury authorities are also considering sanctions, reports the Journal.

►  ‘Breakthrough’ N. Korea Missile Launch Fails

North Korea’s latest missile launch appeared to have ended in a failure on Wednesday, three days after the North claimed a major breakthrough in its rocket development program. Seoul’s Defense Ministry said it was analyzing what type of missile was launched from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan but gave no further details. Yonhap news agency reported the missile was believed to have exploded in mid-air. The failure might mean that the missile is a newly developed one the North has not deployed, according to South Korean media. Last year, the country suffered a series of embarrassing failed launches of its new medium-range Musudan missile before it successfully test-fired one.

American officials said earlier this week that the US military expected another North Korean missile launch in the next several days, the AP reports. The officials said the US had increased its surveillance over the North and had detected a North Korean missile launcher being moved, as well as the construction of VIP seating in Wonsan. The reported launch failure comes as the North is angrily reacting to ongoing annual US-South Korean military drills that it views as an invasion rehearsal. Earlier this month, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles that landed in waters off Japan, triggering strong protests from Seoul and Tokyo.

►  Surgery a Success on Baby With 4 Legs

Many new parents joke about counting fingers and toes when their baby is born, but a mother in the Ivory Coast was confronted with an entire extra pair of legs—and those legs were growing out of her baby girl’s spine. The cause is actually straightforward: Baby Dominique (her last name isn’t being released) was developing in utero with a twin, but as sometimes happens, she absorbed her twin’s body. Well, most of it. The legs, feet, and spine of the so-called “parasitic twin” who required Dominique’s organs to survive fused to Dominique’s spine. They would eventually not only prove cumbersome but also tax her heart and shorten her life, reports the BBC. “That amount of mass and disturbance in that area would cause her significant spinal problems as she grew,“ one surgeon said.

Five surgeons spent six hours using an “enormous” amount of specialized imaging to remove the twin’s anatomy (including bones, blood vessels, and nerves, reports the Chicago Tribune) from Dominique’s spine—a risky operation that could have resulted in paralysis. The team at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., tells Reuters the operation was a success and that the 10-month-old is thriving at her Chicago area foster home. “She has touched our hearts,“ her foster mother Nancy Swabb said, holding back tears as she called the “amazing” girl “resilient.“ Dominique will be reunited with her parents and three older sisters, who are regularly updated with photos and stories, as soon as she can travel. The Ohio-based nonprofit Children’s Medical Missions West sponsored her trip.

►  Diplomats Told to Lose Their Trudeau Cut-Outs

One photo shows a group of men holding a drink up to Justin Trudeau’s mouth. Another shows a woman licking his face. But such selfies with life-size cardboard cut-outs of the Canadian prime minister at diplomatic events are now a thing of the past. After complaints from opposition members of parliament, Canada’s global affairs department has asked diplomats to stop using cut-outs of Trudeau at events, reports the CBC. It isn’t clear how often the cut-outs were used, but one appeared at a Canadian tourism booth at the South By Southwest festival in Texas earlier this month, reports the Toronto Star. The Canadian embassy in Washington also rush-ordered a $110 cut-out of Trudeau ahead of Canada Day celebrations last year.

Noting the US embassy in Ottawa has a cut-out of former President Obama, diplomats described the idea as a “hoot” that would generate “serious selfie action,“ though some said it didn’t seem “very prime ministerial,“ according to emails revealed by a freedom of information request from members of Canada’s opposition Conservative Party. A Conservative MP has used the opportunity to compare Trudeau to a cut-out, noting his “shallow façade,“ while a party spokesman argues the “Canadian brand is much more than the prime minister.“ Global Affairs Canada, however, gave no reason for its order to abandon the Trudeau cut-outs, which can still be purchased by anyone at Plenty of other political figures are available, too.

►  Trump Son Slammed for Response to London Attack

Trump’s oldest son was slammed Wednesday for what was seen as a political attack on London’s mayor within hours of a terrorist attack that left five people dead and dozens injured. “You have to be kidding me?!: Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan,“ Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, linking to an Independent story from last September. Trump Jr. was accused of misrepresenting the mayor’s remarks and exploiting the London attack, the BBC reports. Khan, speaking after a meeting with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio the day after three NYC-area bombings, had been talking about the need for big cities to stay vigilant and be prepared for terrorist attacks.

“You have to be vigilant, you have to support the police doing an incredibly hard job, you have to support the security services,“ Khan said in September. It’s not clear whether Trump Jr. was aware that the article he linked to was from months ago and not the mayor’s response to the attack, the Guardian notes. “You use a terrorist attack on our city to attack London’s Mayor for your own political gain. You’re a disgrace,“ tweeted MP Wes Streeting. CNN reports that the White House offered a more diplomatic response to the attack, with Trump tweeting that he had spoken to Prime Minister Theresa May to offer condolences, and Sean Spicer saying it would be “irresponsible” to jump to conclusions about the incident. (Secret Service agents may have taken a selfie with Donald Trump Jr.‘s sleeping 8-year-old.)

►  Arrest Made in 47-Year-Old Australian Murder Mystery

Nearly 50 years after a 3-year-old girl disappeared from an Australian beach, police may have finally cracked the case. In January 1970, Cheryl Grimmer visited Fairy Meadow beach in Wollongong with her mother and three young brothers, the BBC reports. As the visit wound down, the children went to shower off. Cheryl never returned from the girls’ changing room. Her brother, Ricki Grimmer, says she was only gone for a few minutes. “It’s something I still live with every day,“ he says. A massive search for Cheryl proved fruitless, and her body has never been found. Her parents both died without knowing what happened to her, and her brothers didn’t want the same thing to happen to them, according to ABC. Then, on Wednesday, police made an arrest.

The unnamed 63-year-old suspect was a “person of interest” during the original investigation. Police, who revisited the case last year, say new clues—including three witnesses who saw a teen “loitering” in the area of Cheryl’s disappearance—allowed them to confirm some details of the original investigation and make the arrest. The suspect was a 16-year-old student at a reform school in 1970, the Illawarra Mercury reports. Police say he spoke about Cheryl’s disappearance at the time. He’s now charged with her abduction and murder. “I’m not going to get into the specifics ... but I can say that they are quite horrific,“ one detective tells the BBC. Cheryl’s brother, Stephen Grimmer, tells the Sydney Morning Herald the arrest has been “unreal” and “really emotional.“


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The Free Press WV    I have never written to an advice columnist before, so please bear with me.

My dad passed away in January 2016 from a tragic motorcycle accident. A driver wasn’t paying any attention and hit my dad. He died a week later in the hospital from his injuries. I got the call he passed on the morning of my 40th birthday. It’s been a year now, and my mom is still heartbroken. I realize people grieve in their own ways, and seeing as they would have been married for 50 years last June, I can understand that it will take time to heal.

However, what I need help with is this: She has turned bitter and hateful toward everyone. My younger sister and I are married and have families of our own. So Mom feels abandoned when we can’t come over every day. I have invited her to places, but she always cancels. She has alienated all her friends, including her best friend of 10 years.

Now she has moved on to my husband and my youngest daughter. She blames my husband for my not spending more time with her. Last summer, we went on a Colorado vacation, and he wanted it to be just he, our two daughters and I. Mom took that to mean that he feels she isn’t a part of our family – which isn’t true. I go over there every week, and she refuses to get out of bed, giving one excuse or another. It’s come to the point that I have started lying to her about my work hours just so I don’t have to put myself in a situation of being disappointed anymore. She has started in on my youngest and says nasty things to my daughter’s face, such as, “You’re a waste of space.‘’ My daughter is 12, and that really hurts her self-esteem. That is the last straw. I love my mom, but attacking my daughter and my husband is unforgiveable. Please, any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated. — One Foot Out the Door

The Free Press WV    Dear One: No matter how much your mother might be pushing people away, her behavior sounds like a cry for help.

First, it’s important that you not return her bitterness in kind. When she hurls nasty insults at you, simply tell her, “I’m sorry you feel that way.‘’ She’ll be less inclined to lash out at you once she stops getting the response she’s looking for.

Second, emphasize that you’ll always love her unconditionally, but if you’re going to be part of each other’s life, she must find a therapeutic outlet for her grief, whether it’s counseling, a support group or a religious adviser. Visit the sites of GriefShare and Soaring Spirits International for more resources.

And no matter what, don’t feel guilty for healing. Continue taking vacations with your husband and children. Your mother’s grief cannot hold your joy hostage.

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The Free Press WV    I have a friend with a lot of food allergies. My husband and I often host dinner parties, and we always make sure to prepare at least one dish that she can eat. However, upon arriving at the party, she starts pointing at all the other dishes and saying, “Can I eat that?‘’ When I say no, she says, “Oh,‘’ and then she looks sad. I find this annoying, as to me, it seems ungrateful. Lately, I find myself close to snapping at her whenever this happens. Should I just stop inviting her? — Accommodating

The Free Press WV    Dear Accommodating: I see two possibilities here: 1) Your friend is intentionally signaling her dissatisfaction with the food options. 2) You feel bad (though you shouldn’t), so you interpret her reactions that way. Whichever it is, the solution is the same: Talk to her. Let her know that it makes you feel bad when she seems upset about the meal. She’ll most likely apologize for giving the impression and work with you toward a solution, unless she’s allergic to manners.

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The Free Press WV    I am so upset I’m beside myself. Every time I think about it, I get so angry I could spit!

A neighbor and walking buddy of mine for many years, “Marie,‘’ died last year, and no one in our circle of friends knew about it. We knew she was in failing health with Alzheimer’s disease, but no one knew she was as bad off as she must have been. All contact we had with her was through her husband, “Bill,‘’ who had assured us that other than her ability to remember, she was fine.

One day, I was driving past the house of Marie’s sister, “Nancy,‘’ and stopped as Nancy and her husband were coming down the driveway. They confided that their brother-in-law never invited them to visit, and sometimes he even sent them away if they dropped by. However, I would often see Bill’s side of the family visiting.

What’s really got me going is that last week, there were two obituary notices in the local paper. One stated that Marie died last year and that a memorial service was to be held at a veterans cemetery later that day. The second announced Bill’s death and said he would be receiving military honors at the same cemetery, inviting all their friends and neighbors to attend to honor Bill and pay their respects. Because of the short notice, I wasn’t able to attend.

I feel bad for Marie and Bill’s family, but even if I could have gone, I’m not sure I would have liked going to honor her husband. Marie was kept pretty isolated from us most of the time, and her husband walked with us when he could, much to our dislike. He was a very controlling and verbally abusive husband, selfish and self-centered. He would constantly monitor my friend’s food intake. Ugh – it’s got me going again.

How can I pay respects to someone I had no respect for whatsoever? What should I say to his family members if I see them? There’s already a “for sale’‘ sign on the lawn. — Feeling So Bad

The Free Press WV    Dear Feeling: I am so sorry for your loss. If you see his family members, stop and talk to them, but only with words of compassion. Don’t vent to them about Bill and how angry you are over his treatment of Marie. They are grieving a beloved member of the family.

I think that what is causing you the most anger is the feeling that your friend was forgotten. Try organizing a way to remember Marie. Perhaps you and your other walking buddies could pool money to sponsor a bench or another memorial marker in her name, or you could all organize a walkathon to raise money to help victims of domestic violence.

To anyone who suspects that a friend is being abused: Please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.7233.

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The Free Press WV    Let me add my voice to all the others I hope are telling you just how wrong you were to advise “It Was ‘Only’ Sex’‘ not to tell his adult son his true biological origins. People always deserve to know their true biological heritage, for reasons too obvious and incontrovertible to list. In fact, informing the son is the only decent reason for this wife to have caused such great pain by telling her husband at this late date. She has several people to ask forgiveness of, including the other siblings. — Mental Health Professional

The Free Press WV    Dear Mental: Thank you for weighing in, and I have heard from others voicing similar opinions. My only caveat is that if this man decides to tell his son, I think he should implore his wife to be on board. It would be best for the two of them to sit all the kids down together so they can work through the pain of the revelation as a family. Otherwise, it might splinter them.

West Virginia Education and Common Core

Parent Activists Outraged as West Virginia Republicans Amend Their Own Bill to Replace Common Core

Parent activists battling to replace the Common Core standards in West Virginia are outraged that the very Republican lawmakers who sponsored a bill to replace the Core with highly acclaimed K-12 standards have voted to amend the legislation.

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“I am just sick and tired of seeing the unethical actions, stretching the truth, manipulating the circumstances and using rules and regulations written by an administrative agency, i.e., the State Board of Education, to control the mis-education of our children,” West Virginia education activist David Flinn tells Breitbart News. “The truth is never heard or seen by the people and even some of the legislators because the whole story is never aired.”

Some Republican lawmakers and education bureaucrats in West Virginia are jointly explaining their actions by declaring that the Common Core standards have already been “repealed” in the state when, in fact, the current standards – called the West Virginia College- and Career-Readiness Standards – consist of language that is identical to Common Core.

The legislators succeeded in altering a bill that would have replaced the rudimentary Common Core standards in the state with the highly acclaimed 1997 California math standards and the equally celebrated 2001 Massachusetts English and Language Arts (ELA) standards.

SB 524 now no longer requires the state to adopt any new standards, but still says the state Board of Education is “prohibited from implementing Common Core academic standards.”

State Sen. Robert Karnes, a Republican and a sponsor of the original measure, actually suggested the amendment to the bill that removed the adoption of the California and Massachusetts standards. Another of Karnes’s amendments changed the date West Virginia would be “prohibited from implementing Common Core academic standards” from July 01, 2017, to July 01, 2018.

Karnes spoke at length with Breitbart News, describing the intense political pressure from pro-Common Core forces and their political allies to keep the current state standards, which, he agrees, amount to a “Common Core rebrand.”

“I would say our current standards are well over 99 percent the same as Common Core,” he states. “I don’t disagree with that.”

Karnes says he appreciates the California and Massachusetts standards, and even spent time over a year ago speaking with Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who helped develop the Massachusetts ELA standards. Dr. Jim Milgram of Stanford University led the development of the 1997 California math standards.

He explains:

I’m fine with those standards, but there was a real concerted effort by some to…I don’t know if you could exactly say slander, but let’s just say they hit those standards very hard for being old and out of touch…and it was carrying a lot of weight. So, the amendment, essentially, served one purpose, and that was to keep the bill alive and move it over to the House.

And there’s an effort over there to define more clearly what we did in the amendment, essentially saying that state teachers, state educators, will be involved in any standards formulation, adoption, etc. We put that in there, and I’m told that on the House side they’ve got some even better language.

But, having those specific standards in there, I believe would have essentially killed the bill. It’s better to keep it moving than to watch it die.

Some Republicans in the state senate, however, are proclaiming Common Core to be already dead in West Virginia.

State Senate Education Committee chairman Kenny Mann, a Republican who co-sponsored the original bill to replace Common Core with the higher level standards, held up a state death certificate on the West Virginia Senate floor and said, “I want to just use this to say that Common Core is dead in West Virginia. I strongly believe that.”

Parent education activist Erin Tuttle, who dealt with a similar struggle against establishment Republican lawmakers in Indiana, testified early on before a West Virginia House education committee about a bill to repeal Common Core in that state. She tells Breitbart News:

Despite boastful claims from state legislators that Common Core was repealed, the people of West Virginia aren’t buying it. The fact that every school is still using Common Core textbooks and administering a Common Core test (Smarter Balance) is an everyday reminder to students, parents, and teachers that the state legislature’s claim is false.

Education bureaucrats and their political allies, however, are continuing the narrative that all standards are basically the same and that the California and Massachusetts standards are outdated.

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, bureaucrat Sarah Stewart, director of policy and government relations for the West Virginia Department of Education, said her department recommended removing the renowned California and Massachusetts standards from the bill. She added that, with the removal of the amendment to adopt the higher-level standards, the state board of education would now not be required to change the current standards.

“I think all standards have a layer of commonality,” Stewart said. “We’re not arbitrarily gonna teach something different at third grade just for the sake of being different. So I think that our standards that we have in place were adopted with the input of teachers, so we will have met the statutory requirements if this bill passes.”

“State Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano publicly argues that the state school board already repealed Common Core when it made its last revisions to the standards,” reports the Gazette-Mail.

Democrat state Sen. Bob Plymale, reports The Legislature, a West Virginia School Board Association publication, questioned state Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns (R), also a sponsor of the Common Core replacement bill.

“In the bill, it also says that you’ll repeal Common Core,” Plymale said. “That’s already been repealed. Why in the world would we put that in the bill?”

Ferns replied, “It’s my understanding that the Smarter Assessment [sic] part of Common Core was adjusted, but no new standards were adopted.”

Plymale said Ferns was incorrect, attacking the bill for calling for the Core’s replacement with the California and Massachusetts standards.

“The standards that are put forth in this bill aren’t even used in the states that are referred to,” Plymale said. “For example, the 1997 standards aren’t even being used in California.”

“I think we’re directing the state board to use these standards that were established in 1997 in California and 2001 in Massachusetts,” Plymale continued. “The standards that we have now were adopted by teachers – the teachers’ input. They went around the state.”

Much to the outrage of parents and many educators in the states of California and Massachusetts, their state legislatures and governors replaced their high-quality standards with the Common Core, in exchange for federal grant money and relief from the burdensome No Child Left Behind federal legislation.

Jamie Gass, education director at the Massachusetts-based Pioneer Institute, wrote at Breitbart News in 2014 about the effects of removing their higher quality standards and replacing them with Common Core:

Today Massachusetts’ SAT scores are down 20 points from their 2006 highs. Third-grade reading scores are the best predictor of future academic success. Last year, after several years of stagnation, the percentage of Massachusetts third-graders who scored proficient or advanced on MCAS reading tests fell to its lowest level since 2009. At 57 percent, the portion of third-graders reading at or above the proficient level is 10 points lower than it was in 2002.

“Martirano and Plymale have been behind all of the opposition arguments in every year that we have been fighting Common Core,” Flinn says. “They, with the help of others who we, at various times were convinced were on our side, in the end cooperated with the opposition to kill our bills to stop or repeal.”

The state senate approved the “symbolic Common Core repeal” by a vote of 23-8 in favor of the amended SB 524, according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

The report notes:

The bill, which originally repealed Common Core and replaced the state’s current education standards with those from Massachusetts and California from 20 years ago, now only ensures West Virginia is no longer a part of the memorandum of understanding between states in the Common Core consortium.

It no longer requires the replacement of standards, but a “cyclical review” which must include West Virginia educators.

The bill now heads to the West Virginia House of Delegates.

Angela Summers of West Virginia Against Common Core posted the following to the group’s Facebook account:

Karnes says the bill as it passed the state senate still has some value:

There’s a couple of things in there that are still worthy, in the sense that we officially terminate the Common Core standards – which is of marginal value – but the other thing that it does – which is of more value – is that it withdraws us from the memorandum of understanding, so that our state is no longer in any way bound to the Common Core standards. So, better that we’re free-floating than tied to that system.

When you’re still part of the consortium related to Common Core, you’re bound – you’ve signed off on this agreement – so that we won’t deviate more than 15 percent from Common Core. So, this bill does completely cut us free from our involvement with the consortium, and, therefore, any changes that we do in our standards from this point forward are no longer bound by that 15 percent limitation.

The Republican state senator, however, appears doubtful about whether the higher level California and Massachusetts standards will get back into the bill in the state House:

One of our issues is that we have a lot of educators in the House side, and I think they’re not convinced on those [California and Massachusetts] standards. And, so, I think if they’re not convinced on those standards as being the best standards, so between what I knew was going on over there, and what I knew was going on over here, I was pretty comfortable with the idea that, if we didn’t put that amendment in there, the bill was going to die.

“As long as the House can still work on it, it’s not dead and we still have something to work with,” Karnes says. “Not dead is better than dead.”

The Common Core standards are owned by two private groups: the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA).

Two multi-state test consortia funded by the U.S. Department of Education – Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) – have developed assessments based on the Common Core standards. Both consortia have dwindled significantly in their membership, however, as grassroots parent groups around the country have pressed lawmakers to break free from the Common Core reform.

Tuttle says state lawmakers must educate themselves about the true nature of the Common Core reform and work for what is educationally sound for the children of their states.

“Until state legislators stop lying to themselves and admit what everyone else knows to be true, very little progress will be made by West Virginia’s schools,” she says. “The state legislature needs to face reality and pass a bill that not only repeals Common Core, but ensures it is replaced by standards that work.”

~~  Dr. Susan Berry ~~

Arts & EntertainmentMediaEducationNewsWest VirginiaPolitics | Government | ElectionState-WV(1) Comments

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

The State of West Virginia is broke.
WVBOE-WVDOE all are aware of it.

The state WVBOE “accepted” COMMON CORE.
The “deal” the federal government gave, came with strings attached.

The COMMON CORE standards “had” to be upheld.
“OR” the MILLIONS of dollars that West Virginia received from Washington “had” to be REPAID.
There is no money to do that.

So your Charleston, education board of failure, has been putting new names on the same old COMMON CORE.

Ask the WVBOE how many millions of dollars were paid, under contract, to the California Consortium that has been their handlers, since Dr. Martirano executed that contract?

By WVBOE LIES-LIES-LIES  on  03.24.2017

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GSC Criminal Justice Students Participate in Laser Shot Training Program

Students in Glenville State College’s criminal justice fraternity, Sigma Pi Xi, took part in Laser Shot, a tactical decision making scenario-based training program on Friday, March 10. The training was made possible by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

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DNR Sergeant Duane Duffield provided individual hands-on training to students with the advanced law enforcement simulator. Participating students were presented with virtual ‘shoot/no shoot’ scenarios where they had to assess the situation, verbalize, and take action. By taking part in this type of interactive training, the GSC Criminal Justice Department continues to be a pioneer in progressive and hands-on teaching methods.

Trump’s Education

Trump’s ed budget: A ‘betrayal’ and a ‘meat cleaver’ to public education

Ed groups decry the proposed federal education budget, which invests heavily in school choice
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Under Trump’s proposed FY 2018 education budget, school choice would receive a massive $1.4 billion while the Education Department undergoes a $9 billion, or 13 percent, cut.

Overall, the proposed education budget cuts the Education Department’s budget from $68 million to $59 billion.

Within the proposed $1.4 billion school choice investment, charter schools get a $168 million boost, and $250 million is allocated toward a new private school choice program.

Title I funds would receive a $1 billion increase, but the funds would follow individual students should they decide to change schools.

IDEA funding for programs that support students with special needs and disabilities would remain stable at $13 billion.

In a statement, AFT President Randi Weingarten said the proposed education budget “takes a meat cleaver to public education.”
Next page: Reaction from education groups

The education budget would eliminate Title II funding, which allocates $2.4 billion to help states with teacher hiring and PD.

It also eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program–a $1.2 billion program for community schools, before- and after-school programs, and summer programs. The education budget document notes that the program “lacks strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.”

“These are the biggest cuts to the education budget we can recall—even during times of great fiscal stress,” Weingarten said. “Only someone who doesn’t know what public schools do and what kids need would contemplate or countenance these kinds of cuts.”

The proposed education budget level-funds the Pell Grant program but would eliminate $3.9 billion from unobligated carryover funding, which could have gone to students.

It also maintains $492 million in funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions and for programs that serve high percentages of minority students.

Reaction from education groups came almost immediately.

Michelle Asha Cooper, President of the Institute for Higher Education Policy: “The Trump Administration’s Budget Blueprint, also referred to as the ‘skinny budget,’ touts budget savings, but in truth, harms the neediest Americans seeking to improve their life circumstances and ascend to the middle class by earning a college degree. Skyrocketing college costs mean students are shouldering a heavier burden than ever before. And the proposed cuts to Department of Education programs hurt the very Americans who have the most to gain from a college education. The Trump Administration is masquerading harmful budget cuts as smart savings — all of which will be borne on the backs of the neediest students.”

Center for Responsible Lending Policy Counsel Yana Miles: “Although education is generally viewed as the ladder to financial security, this budget would widen economic divides for some and deepen societal divisions for others. Its $9 billion cut in current education funding includes $3.9 million in cuts to Pell Grant revenues that would have been carried over. Despite public commitments to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the budget would not increase finding to institutions that serve high percentages of minority students, and significantly reduce the Federal Work Study program.”

Bob Wise, President of the Alliance for Excellent Education and Former Governor of West Virginia: “President Trump wants to make America great, but you can’t do that without investing in the nation’s future–its students. Like too many of the nation’s students, the president’s proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Education is in need of remediation. As states plan to implement the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, they need resources to fuel reform. This budget proposes cuts to investments in literacy, after-school programs, and programs that help students transition to and succeed in postsecondary education. In a knowledge-based economy, these education cuts begin building a wall preventing many millions of students from contributing fully to our nation’s economic growth.”

Teach Plus Founder and CEO Coline Coggins: “President Trump’s proposal to slash the Education Department’s budget by 13 percent and cut billions of dollars of support for public education will have dire consequences for our nation’s students and severely limit their access to equitable learning opportunities. Eliminating funding for Title II, which helps states and districts hire and provide professional development for teachers, will dismantle critical efforts to improve teacher quality.”

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech: “AASA is deeply concerned that the first budget proposal from the new administration doesn’t prioritize investment in the key federal programs that support our nation’s public schools, which educate more than 90 percent of our nation’s students. While we would normally applaud a proposal that increases funding for Title I by $1 billion, we cannot support a proposal that prioritizes privatization and steers critical federal funding into policies and programs that are ineffective and flawed education policy. The research on vouchers and portability has consistently demonstrated that they do not improve educational opportunity and leave many students, including low-income students, student with disabilities and students in rural communities-underserved.”

Jodi Grant, Executive Director, Afterschool Alliance: “The Trump administration’s call for zero funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool initiative is a betrayal of the millions of students and parents who depend on afterschool and summer learning programs. This proposal would devastate working families. It is painfully short-sighted and makes a mockery of the President’s promise to make our country safer and to support inner cities and rural communities alike.”

Lindsey Burke, Director of the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation: “For the first time in decades, the Trump administration is significantly trimming the budget at the U.S. Department of Education, demonstrating a commitment to restoring federalism in education. … While the budget makes great strides in reducing federal spending on ineffective education programs, it also suggests spending $250 billion on new ‘private school choice program.’ This is well-intentioned but not the best role for the federal government, as it could entangle Washington in local school policy and private education.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos: “Today’s Budget Blueprint keeps with President Trump’s promise to focus the U.S. Department of Education on its mission to serve students. The budget places power in the hands of parents and families to choose schools that are best for their children by investing an additional $1.4 billion in school choice programs. It continues support for the nation’s most vulnerable populations, such as students with disabilities, while streamlining and simplifying funding for college and continuing to help make college education more affordable.”

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