WVU experts weigh in on education overhaul bill

West Virginia University education expert Erin McHenry-Sorber believes SB451, which allows for charter schools and Education Savings Accounts, is “curious legislation” for West Virginia, a state that has, since 2007, underfunded its public education system, and had the deepest cuts of any state in the 2017-2018 academic year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Additionally, assistant professor Matthew Campbell notes that charter schools have lower standards for teachers, meaning those schools would house some of the least qualified teachers in the state.

Education overhaul bill may bring hard choices to rural counties

The debate over SB 451, which promotes charter schools and vouchers in West Virginia, while offering teachers raises, has centered around choice and parents’ ability to send their children to school where they want. Passage of the bill in the state senate prompted an immediate response from teachers who voted to strike in the anniversary week of a landmark court decision which held education is a fundamental right. A West Virginia University expert believes the arguments miss an important provision of the bill — a “deceptively modest change” that would allow county school boards to increase property taxes with voter approval.

Biotechnology can be used to combat forest pests and diseases

Biotechnology provides opportunities to restore native species that are threatened by insect pest or pathogen outbreaks. In some cases the resistant trees may be intentionally released into the wild where they could proliferate with minimal human intervention, thus raising issues that are fundamentally different from those encountered in agricultural biotechnology. More research is needed on the ability of the existing tree population to adapt and efforts to enhance resistance with biotechnology should be integrated with breeding programs for the target trees.

Coal mining dangers remain 50 years after Coal Mine Safety and Health Act, subsequent mine disasters

Nearly 50 years after the passage of the federal Coal Mine Safety and Health Act, significant occupational dangers for coal miners remain. As the anniversary of the Sago Mine Disaster approaches, and on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the Farmington Mine Disaster, Michael McCawley from the West Virginia University School of Public Health notes black lung cases are on the rise and silicosis diagnoses persist. His research has been inspired by these and other mine tragedies in an effort to make coal mines safe and healthy places to work.

WVU professors have roles in Dept. of Energy plasma research policy

West Virginia University physics and astronomy professors are part of a national Department of Energy research team that actively shape research policy in their field. Earl Scime notes that while thermonuclear energy is the major focus of plasma physics, there are other benefits from the research. Scime is one of seven scientists who will organize the first phase of a strategic plan to further plasma physics research in a new facility for testing materials to be used in fusion reactors.

WVU Extension Service expert offers advice for maintaining fresh-cut Christmas tree safety

During the holiday season, many families around West Virginia decorate their homes with garland, tinsel, lights and most commonly, the Christmas tree. While some opt for the ease and convenience of a pre-lit, artificial tree, others prefer the look and smell of a fresh-cut Christmas tree. A fresh-cut tree does require a bit more attention and care, but according to WVU Extension Service expert Dave McGill, with a few simple considerations, you and your family can safely enjoy your tree all season long.

Gene editing could lead to ‘cascade’ of change

West Virginia University Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences Dr. Clay Marsh says that although “a lot of good promise” could come from gene editing, it is mostly practiced in lab models, not in people.