Every January, thousands of parents, teachers, students and activists assemble at state capitols across the nation to celebrate. What are they celebrating? They are celebrating educational choice. It’s National School Choice Week, and West Virginia is playing a key role in emphasizing the value and benefit school choice gives students and families. Since 2011, National School Choice Week has provided us with the opportunity to recognize the important contributions that primary and secondary educational choice plays in providing the next generation with a quality education.
Here in West Virginia, 395 events are being held across the state and we have joined in the celebration with regard to educational choice. Last year the legislature passed and the governor signed into law a landmark piece of legislation that gives parents and students the ability to exercise their right to choose. Serving as the chair of the West Virginia Senate Education Committee I am proud to have been a part of that important turning point.
Important developments in education in the United States are coming out of the states and that’s how it should be. That’s because education in the US is primarily funded at the state and local level. I think it would surprise a lot of people that less than 10% of elementary and secondary level funding comes from the federal government. Further, in most states, decisions regarding curricula and other programs are made on the local level. Standards should be established by the communities in which we live and work.
We won a hard-fought battle in the Mountain State last year to give parents, teachers and students more choice. For the first time, we will have charter schools. In addition there will be more options because of open enrollment. We have also empowered districts to take greater control over curriculum and teacher pay. Teachers will have greater say in whether students pass or fail.
These are big steps that we have taken here in West Virginia toward creating an innovative and dynamic school system that will give every child a better chance at success. A one-size-fits all approach to education simply doesn’t work. Each child is unique — a one of a kind — and our educational system should be accommodative to the needs of each child.
So let’s celebrate our children, because that’s a cause worthy of celebration. Happy National School Choice Week to you and please check schoolchoiceweek.com for an event near you.