Improving public schools in West Virginia will not be easy and it will not happen overnight. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's proposal to accomplish reform is far from perfect.
But it is a start - and a good one, at that. State legislators should not allow the governor's bill to be nitpicked to death - a process that already has begun.
What Mountain State residents talking with their legislators must accept is that, for all the good qualities on display at some schools, the state's public education system is a wreck. Our children's performance on standardized tests ranks behind almost every other state. About one-fourth of students who enter school do not graduate. Of those who do, around one-third require remediation if they go to college.
The sad truth is that the stereotype of uneducated "hillbillies" has some basis in fact. We can resent that all we want, but defensiveness will not do our children any good.
Yes, there are sections of the governor's bill we wish could be altered. Some changes already have been made. But a concerted effort is under way to weaken some of the most critical proposals in the bill. There is a very real possibility that the bill could be gutted before it reaches Tomblin's desk to be signed into law.
So let us be clear: One of the most important opportunities for education reform in years, perhaps even decades, is upon us. If we throw it away, shame on us.
Included in Tomblin's proposal are more attention to early childhood education, ensuring students can read adequately before they leave third grade, additional emphasis on career and vocational training, a focus on the critical middle school years, and an 11th grade test to ensure students are ready for college.
There is much, much more in the bill to improve schools in ways great and small.
Again, the bill is not perfect. But it is a start - and West Virginians need to insist our legislators not bow to pressure and maintain the status quo.