There’s an old saying that goes, “Success has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” This phrase was popularized by President John F. Kennedy and is an apt characterization of the recent victory achieved on behalf of education by the West Virginia Legislature.
I am pleased with the progress House Bill 206 represents for West Virginia. As it stands, our education system is ranked near last in America, and it is in desperate need of reform. For decades, many of our state’s leaders have proposed and tried to pass legislation that would enable more freedom for parents and students through the creation of public charter schools. — an option that already exists in 44 other states.
Unfortunately, until HB 206 was signed into law, West Virginia prohibited this widely-accepted option. The struggle finally has been won on behalf of our citizens, and it would not have been possible without the leadership of Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and the determination of the Senate Republican caucus.
Almost on cue, all walks of elected officials have come out of the woodwork to claim credit for the passage of this landmark education bill. There’s plenty of room for additional supporters at the table. I welcome these efforts with open arms, because as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
But what I do find most intriguing is the inconsistent positions of a person claiming the most credit for the bill. In fact, to the extent that he has been peripherally involved, Gov. Jim Justice has bounced very publicly back and forth in his position. You could even say he was against it before he was for it, before he was against it, then for it again. For example, these following excerpts from the Charleston Gazette-Mail, and news releases from the governor’s office.
Against it: Jan 29, 2019: “Gov. Jim Justice broke his silence Tuesday on a public education battle waging at the West Virginia Capitol, aligning himself with unions and Democrats and against the Senate GOP. Justice says ‘Charter schools are a NO. I am absolutely against that, opening Pandora’s Box and doesn’t need to be done. If a bill comes through with paycheck protection and charter schools, it will be vetoed.’”
Against it: Feb 19, 2019: “During a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Jim Justice called on members of West Virginia’s Legislature to pass a clean pay raise bill without any further changes to the state school system at this time.”
Against it: Feb 23, 2019: “Gov. Jim Justice today issued the following statement after the passage of House Bill 2730: ‘I am very pleased that the House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to pass my clean pay-raise bill yesterday. I am now calling on the Senate to do the same and pass the bill as soon as possible.’”
For it: May 4, 2019: “On Thursday, Gov. Jim Justice said he supports ‘two or three pilot charter schools’ in West Virginia.”
For it: May 24, 2019: “In a press release, Gov. Justice said, ‘I applaud the state Senate for making a significant move in attempting to create a bipartisan approach to education betterment. I look forward to continuing to work with all members of the Legislature, the state School Board, and with all citizens of West Virginia in taking steps to make our education system better for students in the Mountain State.’”
Against it again: June 4, 2019: “Justice says: ‘Senate President Carmichael is imploding the senate with his insistence on Public Charter Schools.’”
Totally for it: June 24, 2019: Justice states on Twitter: “I applaud the @wvsenate for passing the education bill tonight. This is the correct resolution that aids our teachers, students, and all those in the education community and I look forward to signing it.”
The inconsistent and contradictory positions taken by the chief executive of our state, especially on an issue as critical as the education of our state’s children, is very troubling.
Reforming public education in West Virginia is vitally important to both economic progress and the well-being and fulfillment of each child’s full potential. I am grateful that a group of dedicated legislators remained steadfast in their support to open a path to a world-class education for our students.
West Virginians should be proud of the Senate Republicans who were more than intermittently present, and did more than talk in the direction of political winds. They worked to create the kind of future in which our children can thrive for generations to come.