The Rev. Matthew Watts: Does West Virginia GOP Have A Plan

West Virginia’s GOP-controlled legislature is throwing itself at school vouchers so hard and fast that they can barely keep up with themselves. They passed a bill, took it back, and then passed it again (with a different collection of votes). 

Rev. Matthew J. Watts, the pastor at Grace Bible Church in Charleston, penned an op-ed for the West Virginia Gazette asking if Republicans have an actual plan, and if that plan is anything but bad news for public education and West Virginia students.

House and Senate Republicans, for years, have talked about the need to reform public education and to provide more school choice. But they have yet to cast a clear vision or to lay out a comprehensive, coherent narrative of where their ideas for education reform and school choice ideas will take West Virginia’s public education system. Instead, they have merely tossed around a few buzz words — like charter schools, school choice, education savings accounts and, lately, virtual schools and Hope Scholarships.

A close look through the historical lens of the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision on Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, might provide us with a glimpse of part of the destination to which we are headed.

The Brown decision was supposed to have ushered in sweeping desegregation of public schools. Instead, it first ignited the massive resistance movement to school desegregation, particularly in Southern states. This massive resistance led to the establishment of segregated, private education academies. In parts of Virginia, public schools were closed for several years and most Blacks in those counties received little or no schooling during that time.

Further racial and economic segregation of West Virginia’s public schools might not be an intended outcome of the education reform ideas being postulated by House and Senate Republicans. However, it will certainly be a part of the reality.