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As Teachers’ Unions Prepare to Strike, Organization Doubles Down on Education Reform

Feb 1, 2018 by AFP

Grassroots group calls out opponents of ESAs for standing in the way of education freedom

CHARLESTON, W.Va.— Americans for Prosperity-West Virginia (AFP-WV) on Thursday announced a five-figure ad buy to boost its ongoing effort to urge lawmakers to support Education Savings Accounts for special needs children. The buy comes as West Virginia teachers’ unions prepare to strike for higher wages and benefits. They are also using the dispute to voice opposition to legislation that would offer Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) to special needs students.

AFP-WV State Director Jason Huffman issued this statement:

“If West Virginia teachers’ unions want to illegally strike over pay and benefits, that’s their decision. But using their grievances to hold hostage much needed education reform for special needs students is just plain wrong. West Virginians support an ESA program for special needs children because they know it will help these students who have a unique and pressing need for enhanced educational empowerment. Dragging a popular education freedom policy into a contentious debate about wages and benefits is political opportunism at its worst. It’s counterproductive, divisive, and we are encouraging lawmakers reject this bait-and-switch rhetoric.

Every child is unique and deserves an education that best suits their individual needs. Sadly, the status quo is holding special needs parents back from doing what they believe is best for their child. Thankfully, principled West Virginia lawmakers are discussing adopting education savings accounts for special needs children—and, despite being a small population of students, we believe this is a great start.”

Background:

Unfortunately, special interest groups are standing in the way of providing a better life for these vulnerable students. What’s worse, opponents of ESAs are using blatantly false scare tactics to do so. AFP-WVs effort is asking lawmakers to reject their disinformation and instead consider the track record of success ESAs have had in other states. Education freedom is about helping kids, not attacking public schools and it is especially disheartening to see education professionals lose sight of their primary goal: give the best education possible to our children.”

“It is clear to parents, students, teachers, and lawmakers that the education system in West Virginia needs serious reform. However, those in public education committed to walk-outs and strikes would do well to leave education freedom policy, like education savings accounts, off their list of grievances.

Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) have emerged as the most innovative and flexible way to expand educational freedom across the country. They allow families to use a portion of the education funds that the government has allocated for them to cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, community college costs, and other customized learning services and materials. To date, six states have enacted ESAs: Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, and Tennessee.

The six states that have adopted ESAs have experienced no harm to their public school systems. In fact, the vast majority of data shows that education freedom actually improves public school outcomes for students. One study showed that nearly 71% of families participating in Arizona’s ESA program were, “very satisfied” with the accounts. No families identified as being dissatisfied.

According to the Cardinal Institute, four out of five West Virginians believe parents should have more control over selection and education option that best suits their child’s unique needs. Nearly half felt that the current education system is poor or failing while 56% of West Virginians favored Education Savings Accounts.