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West Virginia Academy Supports School Choice at State Capitol

Several groups seeking to expand educational options for families participated in a rally yesterday at the West Virginia Capitol rotunda. John Treu, President and Board Chair of the West Virginia Academy, delivered the first speech at the event to discuss the important role charter schools play in providing alternatives within public education for families in West Virginia. The event also included addresses by state political officials and representatives from private school and homeschooling organizations.

School Choice Week is a national event that seeks to raise awareness and promote access so that parents can select the best K-12 education options for their children. The movement seeks to promote policies that remove barriers to educational choice. Meaningful choice means having access to multiple options that include traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning options, as well as homeschooling. The event was co-sponsored by National School Choice Week, a not-for-profit, and the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy.

The full text of John Treu's remarks from the event are provided below.

"I’m honored to speak to you today on the topic of school choice and the essential role that charter schools can play in making that choice a reality in our State. It is an exciting time to be involved in school choice in West Virginia with the still recent introduction of charter school legislation, approval of the first charter schools, as well as the forthcoming Hope Scholarship Programs.

Our organization, West Virginia Academy, was the first ever charter applicant and is among the just three pilot charter schools in the State. We are endeavoring to open our doors in the Morgantown area and the response from families has been tremendous with nearly 450 students pre-registered with others expressing a strong interest. We are innovating in several ways including utilizing best practices and data-driven decision making. We are implementing meaningful teacher assessments that place value not only on student outcomes but also on whether teachers are inspiring student learning to align incentives with the overall purpose of our school. Also, we are developing arts and physical education programs that better meet the needs of West Virginia students by building to a lifetime of activity and growth.

As a pioneer now at the forefront of the school choice movement, we have the potential as a state to not only course-correct our failing public education system, but to lead the nation with public education reimagined in a way that meaningfully places parents at the head of educational choices for their families. These options have always been available for the wealthy, but school choice means expanding educational opportunities and meaningful choice to all.

However, our movement faces tremendous resistance from an entrenched and bloated public education establishment. As proponents of school choice, we are motivated by improving a failing public education system for our children, but the establishment’s primary concern is monopolizing education funding for its own benefit. In fact, funding allocations represent the only talking point against school choice. West Virginia public education is producing some of the poorest student outcomes for reading and math proficiency in the nation. Cato Institute has consistently ranked WV public education right around 50th based on these measures. There is simply no argument to be made that our children are better off with the system continuing as it is.

Recent changes have provided a framework for success and meaningful choice, but school choice has not yet arrived in our state and there is still important work to do to make it a reality. Our children's education is a cause worth fighting for. It is a critical time right now to get involved and your efforts can and will make a difference. If you have resources or time you are able to contribute, then there are several exceptional organizations like our own that are on the front lines and need your support right now more than ever. You can impact this cause simply by being a vocal supporter within your circles of influence, whether on social media or in private conversations. I want to challenge each of you to leave the sidelines on this debate and become an important part of the solution. Thank you."

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