After a long fight for eduction reform – teachers strike, SB 451 dies, unions declare victory, and West Virginia students are left in the dust. Unfortunately, the freedom for parents to choose the proper education program for their child met its end.
The union led, teacher strike sought to kill SB 451 has now officially reached its demise.
“Today the champions of the status quo won,” Senate President Carmichael said. “But that will not stop progress. They’re on the wrong side of history. Other states are moving forward. It’s a marker in the process of education reform…”
SB 451 included a pay raise for teachers, increased funding for public schools, and permitted the creation of charter schools in WV.
However, what are these “scary” charter schools and school choice legislation that has caused all of this fuss?
1. “Those evil charter schools!”
Public charter schools, are tuition-free schools that are open to all students. The majority of charter schools are “public”, leaving less than 15 percent operating as privately ran.
Unlike traditional public schools that have to function on a “one size fits all” approach to education, charter schools are independently operated. This allows teachers to have the autonomy to run their classroom based on the students’ needs. Additionally, the charter school has the operational autonomy to pursue specific curriculum, staff, and budget. This system is fiscally responsible and holds the school accountable to the same (sometimes higher) standards as public schools.
In order to be successful, the charter school has to maintain either the same or higher standards as the surrounding schools to ensure parents will want to send their child [to said school]. This incentive functions via school choice. School choice and charter schools often operate hand in hand.
Currently in WV, the state has zero school choice programs or charter schools. However, 43 states and Washington D.C. allow charter schools.
If a student in WV is not satisfied at their current public school they cannot simply transfer. The parents/guardians must apply to the West Virginia Department of Eduction to be allowed to transfer. If the application is denied, the parents must file for an appeal. According to one transfer appeal rules, the appeal may be approved if:
“The parents of the student must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the State Superintendent that the proposed transfer is based upon sound educational grounds and is in the best interests of the student.”
(Basically, if it pleases the crown.)
The key difference is parents/guardians get to choose which eduction program best fits their child’s needs, as opposed to the BoE making the decision for them. Alternately, they can pay out of pocket for private or homeschool tuition while still being taxed for public education; WV certainly lacks education options.
2. Voucher and Funding
School choice programs function off of a voucher system. This funding system allows parents a set amount of public funding that is utilized for the student’s education. The parent/guardian has the choice to send their child, whether that’s public school, private, online, charter, or homeschool, and the money will follow the child.
Education Account Savings allows for the parent/guardian to withdraw their child from their current school and receive a deposit of public fund to choose the education system that works best for their child.
3. Successful Charter Schools
The Success Academy is a network of NY charter schools located in The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Of the students enrolled, 76 percent are from low-income households, 93 percent are children of color, and 15 percent are students have special needs.
Among the 6,800 students tested, 98 percent were proficient in math and 91 percent proficient in ELA and outranked their peers statewide.
4. Debunking the Fear Mongering
There were a variety of claims used to orchestrate the WV teacher strike in response to education reform.
- “Charter schools will take away funding from public schools” is claim that’s misleading and lacks validity.
- Charter schools are no different than public schools on the basis that every child’s education is paid by taxes. When a student moves to a different school or program, the money follows the student. For example, if a public school has 600 students and 300 of those students transfer, why should that school still receive the same amount of funding as if 50 percent of their students (who left) are still in attendance? The funding put towards schools should reflect the number of students, staff, and possible objectives.
- “Public schools just need more funding”
- The correlation of dumping money into public eduction and increased eduction quality is nonexistent. California spends $55 billion on education (52 percent of the state’s spending budget) and has the largest network of public schools. Yet, only 29.2 percent of CA forth graders are proficient in math and 27.8 percent are in reading. In contrast, Florida is ranked above CA in education and receives one of the least amount of funding for public education.
- “Charter schools only benefit rich/white families”
- The article “The Progressive Case for Charter Schools”, provides evidence as to why the statement hold zero truth. Public charter schools are improving the educational outcomes for students of color and low-income. The hard pill to swallow is that the US public education has yet to produce a consistent economic equalizer , while improving the quality of education.
5. WV Eduction
The school choice system ensures the education programs will provide the up most quality because of free-market accountability. Unfortunately, due to the current system in WV, public schools to do not have to provide high quality education because there is basically no other choice – No competition, zero incentive.
To put data into perspective, this is the WV school scorecard based off of academic performance for 2017-2018.
Due to the lack of a push for education reform and the control of the teacher unions, students are left with the failing status quo. West Virginians had an opportunity to exercise personal autonomy, fix a broken education system, and exercise the freedom to choose the best education program for their child – regardless of household income. Hopefully, this will beginning of West Virginians refusing to settle for mediocrity.