One of the things I am proudest of, is my leading role in bringing school choice to West Virginia. As the chair of the West Virginia Senate Education Committee, school choice was something I championed and I was happy that we were able to pass that legislation. I had a lot of help and I am grateful to all of the people both inside and outside of the legislature that helped to make school choice happen in our state. Without a great team, nothing great happens.
Now that school choice is a reality in our state, there are exciting success stories to report. One of them is the West Virginia Academy, a charter school in Morgantown. I recently visited the school along with the leadership of the Yass Foundation to congratulate the school for winning a $500,000 award. What a great experience it was!
According to WV Metro News:
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Academy public charter school received a visit Friday from a foundation that recently awarded it $500,000.
The academy was a semifinalist for the Yass Prize, considered the Pulitzer Prize of education. The Yass Prize is given annually to recognize innovation in education.
A total of 33 schools nationwide were nominated, and a charter school in Montgomery, Alabama, took first prize and a $1 million award.
The leadership of the Yass Foundation came to Morgantown Friday to tour the first brick-and-mortar charter school in the state.
West Virginia Professional Charter Schools Board Executive Director James Paul said parental choice has been the goal of policies like the Hope Scholarship and the state charter school law.
“The goal in my view is to provide parents with as many options as possible so that every family can find a school that will meet the unique needs of their child, and it’s clear that West Virginia Academy here in Morgantown is playing a key role in that,” Paul said.
Yass Prize Chairwoman Janine Yass beamed as she toured the facility in Morgantown as some of the nearly 300 students went about their day. Yass has been an education reform advocate for 25 years and founded the Yass Prize in 2021.
“This shows the demand for more options for kids to get out of schools that aren’t working for them and it also shows states are becoming more open to letting parents and students have that choice, and more states are allowing it,” Yass said.
West Virginia Academy Chairman John Treu said many questions that swirled when the charter school opened its doors three years ago have been answered. The cash award will allow academy leadership to begin planning for the future Cultural Arts Center in Morgantown. There are also future plans to use the former site of the Preston County Youth Center in Masontown.
“That will be expanded to allow the high and middle schools to move into it,” Treu said. “Then we’ll expand it so the entire high school is at that location in Falling Waters.”
Yass said the charter school concept and the West Virginia Academy represent freedom of choice in education. Along with freedom of choice, Yass believes there’s also an increased focus on the needs of students.
“Create a system that’s more focused on students and not on jobs, systems, or administration,” Yass said.
Treu said many in the community have asked about tuition, but the academy is a public, state-funded charter school available to any family residing in West Virginia. The academy accepts mid-year transfers as long as there is room available.
“We get the same per-pupil funding that traditional public schools get; we just use it in a different way,” Treu said.