Spring: A New Beginning for West Virginia
This past weekend was Easter and has really marked a brighter, warmer, more permanent turn in the weather for Charleston, WV.
Spring is often seen as the season for new beginnings. Whether that be flowers blooming, the beginning of wedding season, or spring cleaning. It’s an opportunity to start over, try something new, or metaphorically (or literally) clean up your life a little.
However, if we get stuck in a Winter mentality, we can’t embrace and enjoy the benefits of Spring.
Winter in West Virginia can be pretty dreary: cold, windy, rainy, and gray. And it’s a long season to boot. Especially when the winter weather teases us like it did this year bouncing back and forth between frigid and balmy. A person might think it’ll never end – that this is the new normal.
If you’re anything like me, I get a case of SAD every year – Seasonal Affective Depression. Winters just really bring me down, make me want to curl up under my covers, and never go outside into the world ever again.
But, if I let that mentality bleed over into Spring, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the beautiful sunshine, the new plants, and wonderful warm breezy weather we are now enjoying in Charleston.
The same can be said for a lot of areas in life, getting stuck in a Winter mentality, or seasonal depression, believing this is the new status quo, can prevent you from enjoying the benefits that come with changes in the weather and the new beginnings of Spring.
In West Virginia, I think this most strikingly applies to the education system. Public education in West Virginia has been suffering for a long time.
Students have been graduating (at pretty high rates, I might add) un-prepared for college or career, teachers have not been rewarded for the value they bring to the classroom or given the freedom to do what they love most – teach, and parents have been disenfranchised and told to stand out in the cold while someone else tells them what is best for their child.
And let’s not forget taxpayers, the average person in West Virginia is often told that it’s their duty to pay taxes and support the system because “don’t you want an educated public?” But, they haven’t exactly gotten a good return on their investment.
If we let ourselves get stuck in a Winter mentality, one of clinging to the status quo, our safety blankets, and refusing to see the changes in the weather, we’ll never be able to enjoy the benefits of a Spring in education.
Education choice is West Virginia’s Spring. And we must embrace it. If we stick to the way we’ve always done things or just keep pouring money into a system that is failing our students, teachers, parents, and taxpayers, we’ll never see the brighter future that education promises all of us.
We often bemoan being the last to make needed changes as a state or being at the bottom of a variety of rankings, but there is a silver lining. West Virginia has the unique benefit of being able to see the benefits that this Spring in education has brought across the country, learning from those lessons, and then applying the best parts to education in West Virginia.
States like Arizona and Florida have radically and fundamentally changed their education systems – going from the bottom to the top – by embracing Education Choice. West Virginia has an opportunity to do the same during this year’s Education Special Session by enacting laws that allow for statewide open enrollment, charter schools, and (my personal favorite) Education Savings Accounts.
Spring is here, West Virginia. Don’t let your Winter mentality follow you and put a damper on your bright future.
Amanda Kieffer is the Communications Associate at the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy.