Extra Credit

WalletHub: W.Va. 3rd worst state for teachers

Once again, a new “study” has come out showing just how terrible it is to live in West Virginia.

After conducting an “in-depth” analysis of data from the Census and Labor bureaus as well as teacher unions and other research groups, WalletHub has concluded that West Virginia is the third worst state for teachers. The study also found that West Virginia is surrounded by a land of opportunity as neighboring states were ranked favorably. Pennsylvania came in second, Virginia came in fifth and Maryland made the top-20. Ohio, which has the second highest teacher salaries when adjusted for cost of living, came in eighth.

The personal finance social network looked at 18 metrics in each state and the District of Columbia ranging from median starting salaries, unemployment rates and teacher job openings per capita. West Virginia came in the bottom half in most categories, placing 34th in average starting salaries, 42nd in median annual salaries, 42nd in 10-year change in teacher salaries, 45th in teacher wage disparity, 43rd in average number of hours worked by teachers and 33rd in unemployment rate.

It’s no secret that West Virginia teachers are paid considerably less than those in neighboring states — the nearly $4,000 disparity is a major talking point between public educators and legislators — but rankings like WalletHub’s needlessly fuels rhetoric that is high on money and low on students.

West Virginians constantly are told they’re poor, dumb and fat among many other things that serve to deflate pride in the mountains they call home. West Virginia is by no means a perfect place, but these “analyses” and “studies,” conducted by outsiders who may or may not have ever stepped foot on Appalachian soil, do a poor job of representing what it’s really like to live here.

The bad of West Virginia is certainly bad, but there is so much good that is swept under the rug because it’s not sensational like “West Virginia is the worst at (fill in the blank).”

West Virginia teachers with 10 years of experience are paid nearly $39,000. While that number is low compared to surrounding states, it’s high when stacked against the average in West Virginia. Every one of those dollars also goes further than in other states. According to the Tax Foundation, that $39,000 spends like $44,000 in West Virginia where the dollar’s worth is stretched to $1.13.

Per capita income in West Virgina is $22,482. So, teachers in West Virginia are doing pretty good. That doesn’t mean it’s OK to pay them an uncompetitive wage though. In fact, doing so leads to many bright educators leaving the state for better opportunities. New state Superintendent Michael Martirano acknowledges this and will seek more competitive wages for teachers.

So, being a teacher in West Virginia isn’t as bad as WalletHub makes it out to be. Certainly, teachers could and probably should be paid more, but until the full picture is taken into view, studies like WalletHub’s will continue to promulgate negativity, which often turns to entitlement as the offended seek change.

The last thing West Virginia needs is teachers more concerned with their paycheck than the success of their students.

Charleston Daily Mail editors are meeting with the Vote Yes for Libraries Committee, a group campaigning for the passage of Kanawha County’s library levy in November.

Library levy campaign underway

The Loving My Library campaign will hand out 1,000 yard signs and 10,000 brochures before the levy vote in November.
The Loving My Library campaign will hand out 1,000 yard signs and 10,000 brochures before the levy vote in November.

Kanawha County Library supporters quietly started a campaign last week they hope will encourage voters to approve a levy that will help fund the library system.

The vote isn’t until November 4, but supporters are confident their early start will help secure a victory and return the library to full funding.

This weekend, yard signs were placed around the county. At first sight, they may not make much sense, but they redirect to the “Loving My Library” website, which has plenty of information about the levy and its impact on voters.

Loving My Library was started by the Vote Yes for Libraries Committee and has been labeled a grassroots movement by supporters. It focuses on people sharing their stories about the library through word-of-mouth, video or social media. It’s a stark contrast to campaigning efforts for last year’s failed library levy, which saw school board member Pete Thaw actively campaigning against it even though the levy would have generated additional support for schools. The levy was overwhelmingly defeated in a special election.

This time, the library owns the message. The levy, while supported by the Kanawaha County Board of Education, will only benefit the library. George Manahan, the Loving My Library campaign manager, is confident it will be successful and thinks the group’s message will connect with voters whether they use library resources or not.

It may prove difficult to convince voters to approve a new tax, but the levy is actually quite modest. Should the levy pass, annual property taxes will increase about $16 for someone who owns a home and vehicle with assessed values of $100,000 and $15,000, respectively. In total, the levy will generate $3 million in annual support and is set to bring in about $18 million over the length of the tax.

If it doesn’t pass, branches could be closed, staff could be laid off and library hours could be cut.

The campaign is giving out free resources and is accepting donations. Visit www.lovingmylibrary.com for more information about the campaign, the levy and how to become involved.

Respiratory virus infecting kids across country

Whether it be seasonal allergies or the flu, the start of school is accompanied by an inevitable spate of colds easily spread in communal areas.

Any sickness should be taken seriously because it can escalate at any time and knock someone out for days, or worse, land them in the hospital. That’s why reports of a respiratory illness sending hundreds of children to the emergency room and some to intensive care units are concerning, especially when alleged cases are showing up as far east as Ohio and Kentucky.

To date, the virus — only known as enterovirus D68 — has affected more than 300 Missourians. Ten other mid-west states are investigating cases and have sought help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the type of virus is common — intense summer colds are usually caused by enteroviruses, which are related to the rhinovirus that causes the common cold — health officials are alarmed by the number of hospitalizations. One CDC official said it could be “just the tip of the iceberg.”

First identified in the 1960s, enterovirus D68 has had fewer than 100 reported cases in the past 50 years. Health officials saw a resurgence of the virus last year and have yet to isolate the recent flare-up’s cause.

Like colds, the virus spreads through close contact. It usually isn’t deadly, but it can cause wheezing and shortness of breath, which could be dangerous for children with asthma or other respiratory ailments.

Contracting the virus and preventing its spread is simple though. The CDC says basic sanitary practices should be used, like washing hands, avoiding sick people and covering the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing. Those with asthma should make sure their inhaler is accessible.

It remains to be seen whether the cases in Ohio and Kentucky are indeed caused by enterovirus D68 or whether it could spread into West Virginia.

There is no vaccine. Treatment, as long as the infection doesn’t escalate, is the same for a common cold.

Many Americans do not have access to nutritious food.
A new report has found that 14 percent of Americans live in food insecure households that do not have access to nutritious food.

More than 14 percent of American families are food insecure, a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found.

According to the USDA, a family that is food insecure has limited or uncertain availability of food that can be acquired in socially acceptable ways while a family that is secure has access to enough food for all its members at all times.

Hearing that statistic may come as a shock to the 85 percent of Americans who never worry about putting food on the table. Even more disheartening is the fact that about 24 percent of West Virginia children under the age of 18 live in households that have faced food insecurity sometime in the past year.

While this is certainly an issue that needs addressing, it doesn’t necessarily mean people are going hungry. In fact, the state and national obesity rates are the highest they’ve ever been.

Despite there being 17.5 million food insecure families in America, less than 5 percent of adults say they went hungry last year. The USDA report says that number is even lower for children, at 1.3 percent.

So, if most of the population says it isn’t going hungry, what does food insecurity really mean?

The USDA says most instances of food insecurity involves food of reduced quality and variety rather than insufficient quantity. Basically, this means that people in food insecure households usually have enough to eat, but it lacks variety, quality and nutrition.

While not as dire a situation, we must consider the affect this has on public health and future generations.

Recent surveys have found that children in households with an annual income of less than $25,000 consume significantly more calories than children in households with incomes above $75,000. This supports the findings that children in poor households are more likely to be obese.

This is why the push to provide healthier school lunches is important despite some students outright refusal to eat them — a study of a Los Angeles school district found that 10.2 percent of fruit and 28.7 percent of vegetables were left over and that many students didn’t even take them from the lunch line.

People can’t be forced to eat healthy, especially when they cannot afford to do so. That is why school nutrition programs are so important. Without them, many children are left to eat processed foods high in fat, sugar and sodium.

As for those students who refuse to eat the healthier options, efforts to educate them about the importance of a balanced diet need to be improved.