A central part of the American dream is the belief that, in the United States, there are no barriers holding one back from the pursuit of his/her full potential. But, there’s a caveat to that dream when one is a student. Unless a family can afford to pay public school taxes and the additional costs of an alternative education, kids K–12 are condemned to the public school they’re zoned for, regardless of its quality.
Fortunately, through things like Student Savings Accounts and voucher programs many state governments are returning education tax dollars to parents and allowing them to choose the best education options for their children. However, West Virginia stands as one of the few states without any of these programs. The Cardinal Institute for West Virginia (WV) Policy recently joined a coalition of organizations dedicated to school choice to launch West Virginia Voices for Education Choices in order to educate citizens about the school choice options that exist in other parts of the country and to empower parents to advocate for similar solutions in West Virginia.
“West Virginia has ZERO school choice: public or private,” explained Garrett Ballengee, executive director of the Cardinal Institute. “In almost all circumstances, families are restricted to the school assigned to them by zip code unless they can afford to pay for it out of pocket. Unfortunately, most families in West Virginia don’t have that luxury … we felt it was necessary to provide a resource that could help families learn about education choice, the options that do exist for families who may be able to afford them, and the reforms we would like to see become reality in West Virginia.”
The website contains high-quality information about the state of K-12 education in West Virginia in a way that is digestible and that encourages calls for change from parents — information like the fact that West Virginia spends more than $11,000 per student yet continues to test poorly and maintains a high unemployment rate.
“We would like our website to become a one-stop shop for families to learn about education choice and a place where they can gather to tell their stories and hear the stories of others,” continued Ballengee. “We hope to build a community that is working to promote freedom in education across the state so that all Mountaineers can enjoy the education best suited to their needs and build a more prosperous future for their individual families and for the state as a whole.”
The Cardinal Institute sees its work for school choice as an extension of its mission to encourage the expansion of liberty and economic flourishing throughout West Virginia. Freedom in education is fundamental to securing freedom in other areas in the lives of West Virginians.
“Education is a key component in creating a more prosperous future for any community, state, or nation,” concluded Ballengee. “Education contributes to not only economic success but cultural flourishing. If we want to see more equality, growth, and opportunity in education worldwide, it is absolutely vital that we create and promote education choices for everyone. If we hope to enable more people in their pursuit of happiness, we must start by expanding educational freedom for children and families. Refuse to settle for one-size-fits-all systems that stifle innovation, transformation, and self-actualization. Children are the future.”