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Tomblin says WV's education system needs work

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West Virginia's financial picture looks pretty good, but that doesn't mean Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin isn't worried about the future.

Although the state has a substantial Rainy Day fund, good bond ratings and is working to pay down debts, Tomblin said all that work will be for nothing if jobs aren't available and children aren't prepared to be productive members of the work force.

Speaking in his inaugural address Jan. 14, Tomblin, a Democrat who was a elected to his first full term in November, said children must receive a good education if they are to avoid the problems that plague many families in West Virginia.

"If our children are to succeed, they must have a world-class education system and must grow up in a community free from the temptations and problems associated with substance abuse," he said.

Tomblin noted the state's per-capita education funding is among the best in the nation. Despite hard-working teachers, student achievement is lagging, something Tomblin said must stop.

"The key to our success lies in making sure our children are prepared and ready to have a successful career in the 21st century economy," he said. "That means focusing to ensure our youngest get started on the right track, with meaningful programs designed to make sure that, by the third grade, children have the key building blocks for a lifetime of learning."

The state also has spent $1.7 billion in school building and improvement projects since 1989, Tomblin said. That money has helped construct 132 new schools. But Tomblin is looking for more.

"In just the past two years, we've dedicated a total of more than $165 million to school improvements and construction projects taking place in all 55 counties," he said.