Free Societies

West Virginia welcomes charter schools, educational freedom with help of the Cardinal Institute

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On July 1, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed House Bill 206 into law, expanding educational options in the Mountain State. This win for West Virginia students came after years of advocacy by the Cardinal Institute, the state’s sole Atlas Network partner. Through op-eds informing the public, appearances on a variety of radio and television shows, and by bringing in national experts to give testimony to the legislature, Cardinal Institute’s work ensures that students will have additional access to better public schools and—for the first time—will have the chance to attend charter schools within the state.

“HB 206 does two notable new things,” explained Cardinal Institute’s development director, Jessi Troyan. “First, it introduces an open enrollment policy where students are more easily able to transfer into a public school other than where they are residentially assigned—giving families a taste of choice and freedom in education within a familiar setting. Second, this legislation allows for the first-ever charter schools to be opened in West Virginia.”

The introduction of charter schools in West Virginia represents a hard-fought win for freedom in a struggle that spans almost a decade.

Troyan notes that in 2009, legislation was introduced by Democratic senators in a Democrat-trifecta government to allow charter schools and was subsequently defeated mostly due to opposition from the teachers’ unions and other unions in the state. Cardinal Institute began a concerted education program to educate the public, legislators, and other involved stakeholders on the necessity of choice, freedom, and alternatives to traditional public education. With Cardinal Institute’s leadership helping to define the debate, Troyan believes that there was enough of a shift in politics, policy discussion, and public knowledge that enabled the passage of legislation.

The new law means that old barriers blocking students from a chance to thrive have been torn down and replaced with new opportunities for parents struggling to provide their children with the best education possible.

“For West Virginia families, this means that more students will have access to an education that best fits their needs, aspirations, and aptitudes, regardless of family income or zip code,” concluded Troyan. “For friends of liberty in the Mountain State, this legislation is indicative of a major symbolic win in recognizing the fundamental virtue of choice. It is no longer ‘business as usual’ in West Virginia, and a monopoly on the public school system is no longer good enough.”