–Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has produced a television ad running statewide (and one 60-second spot that ran in Washington, D.C.) calling for another investigation into the UBB disaster where 29 miners died. Federal and state investigators concluded a combination of poor safety conditions and coal dust caused the disaster, but Blankenship has long contended a sudden rush of natural gas was responsible. Blankenship was released from prison last May after serving one year for the misdemeanor conviction of conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws.
–Wheeling attorney and businessman Ralph Baxter is announcing Tuesday that he’s running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 1st Congressional District, the seat now held by incumbent Republican David McKinley. Baxter previously contemplated a 2014 U.S. Senate run before ultimately deciding against it. Baxter is a successful and wealthy attorney who spent most of his adult life in San Francisco, but returned to his native state several years ago.
–Polls consistently show that West Virginia is a conservative state. The latest edition of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll finds 41 percent of those questioned are either somewhat conservative (25 percent) or very conservative (16 percent). Meanwhile, just 26 percent fall into the liberal category with 10 percent saying they are very liberal and 16 percent saying they are somewhat liberal. Thirty-four percent consider themselves moderate.
–Just one more comment about the horrible traffic and parking problems at FedEx Field last Sunday for the WVU-VT game and I’ll let it go after that. WVU Director of Athletics Shane Lyons on Talkline Thursday concurred with Tech officials that they warned the Redskins that opening the parking lots “four hours in advance of the game was not going to be adequate.” Lyons promises if the Mountaineers ever return to FedEx an earlier opening for parking “will be part of the game contract.”
–I’m still trying to sort through the Smarter Balanced standardized test results for West Virginia public school students, but here’s one piece of data that stands out: None of the tested grades (3,4,5,6,7,8,11) tested above 50 percent proficiency in math. The average was just 34 percent proficiency. 11th graders scored the lowest, just 22 percent graded proficient in math. Third graders did the best with 48 percent.
–Meanwhile, the state Department of Education reports that the number of high school students taking the ACT college entrance exam has increased five percent since 2013. That’s the good news, because 95 percent of students who take the ACT will enroll in some post-secondary education. The bad news is that ACT scores decreased over the same period in math, science, English and reading.
–WVU has received a $650,000 grant from the federal government to figure out ways to help parents do a better job getting their children to eat healthy and get exercise. Professor Melissa Olfert says the challenge is to overcome the habits of fast food, sugary drinks and a sedentary lifestyle for children. A recent report by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 16 percent of West Virginia children ages 2 to 4 are obese. That trend carries through because 38 percent of adults in our state are obese—the highest rate in the nation.