West Virginia Needs More Hope
West Virginia has always had one big problem. We don’t have enough opportunity for everyone that needs it. No matter if it is agriculture or mining, there has yet to be an answer for the future of the Mountain State. Fortunately, the Hope Scholarship offers a roadmap out.
The Hope Scholarship offers $4,600 to each and every public school student who wants to explore educational alternatives to the traditional schooling model. The beauty of this program is that it promises opportunity. No one knows what the economic landscape will be in five years, and the same can be said about the educational landscape under this new paradigm.
Every kid is different; they have different interests, learning styles, and backgrounds. In every area of life we treat people like individuals. Yet the only option for those under 18 in our state up until now has been a one –size-fits-all education system. The flexibility of the Hope Scholarship program fixes that.
Hope Scholarship Offers a Roadmap To a Brighter Future
West Virginia is losing its population at an unsustainable rate. Imagine if we did more than educate our kids enough to leave the state; imagine if we gave them the opportunity to make a life for themselves right here.
Hope Scholarships give the community real buy-in to education. The program allows for a wide variety of potential education service providers, ranging from private schools to small businesses to individual tutors.
These opportunities are possible through a radical reframing of what “education” means. Under our industrial model of education, we fit students to the system, only offering as much variety as existed at the assigned district school. The script has been flipped. Now the system will focus on student needs.
A successful education looks like different things to different people. For some it’s all about getting into college, for others it’s about job placement, and still others maintain that education should focus on building good character. The truth is that none of these perspectives are wrong, but every kid has different needs and every family has different values and priorities.
Hope for All West Virginians
The people who have the most to gain are those who have the least under the current system. Instead of giving families one option, they now have a vast menu to pick from. The high rate of admissible students as well as the dollar amount gives the Mountain State something unique compared to other states’ school choice programs.
Most programs that have been based off of the Educational Savings Account (ESA) model have been limited to meet only certain types of needs. West Virginia’s version gives this opportunity to every public-school student. This program is designed to help all the kids who struggle in their current environment.
Five years ago, we had only a faint idea of how the economic and technological landscape would change by 2021. The possibilities for Hope Scholarships are just as wide open. In 5 years, there may be learning pods, a variety of tutoring options, and even fully immersive virtual learning. Whatever they may be, it will go far beyond what is offered in the traditional public school system.
Real economic development does not come from corporate tax credits, backroom bills, or top-down edicts. Real growth comes from empowering individuals to make a good living for themselves in their communities.
By embracing Hope Scholarships, West Virginia has proven that “kids are our future” is more than a bumper sticker slogan. Parents, communities, and students can write their own educational roadmap instead of simply being forced to follow a map that wasn’t written for them. This freedom of choice will guide us all into a brighter future.
Bradley Foster is the Community Engagement Associate for the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy.
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