The need to improve public schools has become so obvious that some lawmakers who in the past have feared to tackle the issue now seem on board. Even a proposal that the state become more active in charter schools seems to be viable this year.
But leading lawmakers still have not been able to find support for some Manchin proposals. One of them involves teacher hiring and evaluation rules.
Another is to provide pay bonuses to teachers who serve in schools where children from low-income families or minorities predominate. The bonus program may be approved, but only as a two-year test in a few schools. And the hiring and evaluation rules will get no action immediately.
Legislators on the negotiating committee want to study it more, possibly in preparation for action next winter.
Manchin formed the committee after a special legislative session earlier this year bogged down. His sweeping package of school reforms may have been too much, too soon, for legislators — many of whom face re-election fights this fall.
The governor plans to call lawmakers back into special session in mid-July, in the hope that more of his education agenda can be enacted. News that some of his plans are being amended and others are being postponed cannot be pleasing to Manchin.
Still, half a loaf is better than none. The July special session will be worthwhile if it can begin the process of school reform.
Once it is over, however, the governor and lawmakers need to keep reform on the front burner. Perhaps, between July and next January, voters can convince their elected representatives that regardless of what the special interests say, West Virginians want better schools.