Although a legislative win sometimes feels instantaneous, the immense amount of work behind it is seldom seen. Whether it is an Olympic sprinter crossing the finish line or a bill passing the legislature, the effort required often lies in darkness. It never makes newspaper headlines. Hours upon hours of unrecognized, unknown grit is necessary to make miracles happen.
What a Moment: Hope Scholarship Is a Big Legislative win!
The passage of West Virginia’s Hope Scholarship, the most expansive education savings account (ESA) bill passed in America’s history, is no different. Cardinal began its efforts way back in 2015-16 with the release of our very first research paper on ESAs. The paper was authored by Jonathan Butcher, then a senior analyst with the Goldwater Institute and now at the Heritage Foundation. Not only did West Virginia not have private school choice programs like tax credit scholarships and ESAs, but the state also lagged in its adoption of time-tested public school choice options like charter schools.
From that moment on, Cardinal engaged in an educational campaign to speak with anyone and everyone who would listen about why the status quo was failing the state’s 300,000+ students. We took meetings with just about anyone that would have us from private Montessori and religious schools to individual citizens and leaders of respective YMCAs across the state. Most meetings and talks were cordial, though the occasional skeptic could be found, and we were only subjected to one truly awkward interaction. But it was all necessary to get to where West Virginia now finds itself – on the cusp of standard-setting public policy that will cause a paradigm shift in education across the country.
This will be my first post in a series of many on how the battle to put West Virginia’s students front-and-center was waged and won, but for now, every West Virginian should be proud because, for once, our beleaguered state is about to be a trailblazer.
Garrett Ballengee is the Executive Director for the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy.