Free Societies

Cardinal Institute promotes educational choices for children in West Virginia

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“While 43 states and the District of Columbia have enacted charter school laws over the past 25 years, West Virginia has remained on the sidelines,” explains the Cardinal Institute’s new Choices for Children website, which was launched on March 14. “Likewise, while more than half of all U.S. states now allow parents to choose a private school using an education savings account, school voucher, or private school scholarship funded by tax credit-eligible charitable contributions to scholarship organizations, West Virginia families do not have these options.”

A vast majority of West Virginians think that parents should be able to choose the educational option that best fits the needs of their children, according to an opinion survey conducted by the Cardinal Institute, which found that four out of five respondents agreed.

The Cardinal Institute is blazing new trails in both print and digital in its efforts to encourage education reform in West Virginia.

Garrett Ballengee, executive director of the Cardinal Institute, and Jonathan Butcher, education director for the Goldwater Institute, published an op-ed on the benefits of education savings accounts (ESAs) in multiple large newspapers across the state, discussing the research that Butcher had recently completed for Cardinal that culminated in a study about ESAs.

This research also served as the intellectual basis for a universal ESA bill that was introduced into the West Virginia Senate. The bill made it out of the Senate Education Committee but was double-referenced to the Finance Committee, as well.

“Despite the potential savings offered by an ESA bill, West Virginia’s budgetary problems have consumed nearly every other issue this legislative session,” Ballengee said. “In some ways, just getting the bill out of the Senate Education Committee was a victory for the education choice movement in West Virginia, and I think it sets us up extremely well for 2018. It is important to remember that up until this legislative session there had been no discussion of education savings accounts, whatsoever. This year, we had bills introduced into both Houses and one that was able to make it out of an education committee.”

A public school teacher in West Virginia's eastern panhandle reached out to Cardinal to say what a relief it was to hear a positive perspective about choice in schools and education. In addition, the Cardinal Institute was invited to testify on the benefits of school vouchers and ESAs in front of the legislature.

“I sincerely believe that our efforts have already benefited the 270,000 school children in West Virginia,” said Ballengee. “If no other actions take place, Cardinal has already successfully fomented an atmosphere of reform and thirst for innovation to happen in our education system. This will directly or indirectly benefit students across the state as lawmakers and stakeholders begin to realize that the status quo is no longer acceptable.”