As Dr. Laura Schlessinger once said, “We teach our kids how to behave by what we allow, what we stop, what we ignore, and what we reinforce.”
I am a born and raised West Virginian, and grew up a public school Catholic. Like many in our schools, I went to class with Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Jehovah Witnesses and atheists too. We not only learned reading, writing and arithmetic; we learned also that which cannot be tested or assessed. We learned alongside one another, about one another, and from one another; and our differences are neither contagious nor are they anything to fear.
After 15 years as a teacher, I comprehend the argument that charter schools create choice and competition. I must ask: how capitalistic are the concepts of choice and competition when competitors within the same market are expected to operate and compete under different rules and different clienteles?
Despite the concerns and objections by those of my professional calling, the West Virginia Senate led by Sen. Mitch Carmichael delivered charters by way of parliamentary procedure and razor-thin legislative majorities. I closely observed his “Committee of the Whole” and the House of Delegates’ manipulation of Committees A through D. Instead of listening and building a consensus, the West Virginia Legislature circumvented the committees of the lawmaking process to afford charter schools.
In truth, their best legislative achievement will be the “West Virginia Invests Grant Program” that has and will help countless West Virginia high school graduates attend technical and community colleges statewide. However I have to ask, what is the point of paying for their technical or community college if they cannot find housing because of their sexuality or gender-identity? Furthermore, what is the point, if any graduate cannot find a job due to those very same reasons?
I understand the “Fairness Act” makes some West Virginians uneasy. But last year, we saw the extent to which Sen. Carmichael and his party were willing to go to get charters. Why can they not do the same here? I understand the vernacular stipulations to be considered. Neither that nor the fear of frivolous lawsuits prevented passage of the omnibus education bill. Yes, it is an election year with campaigns to win and majorities to maintain, but what good is winning elections and majorities if leaders allow the uncompassionate discrimination of some among us by others among us?
“Any form of discrimination or prejudice against a child of God is a limiting factor upon the achievements of a nation, state, community, and individual;” are those not Sen. Carmichael’s words? (By Jeff Jenkins in News | April 25, 2019) To stay true to my God and my Christian faith, I must love my God and my neighbor without exception or excuse. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I not only believe but am convinced, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
West Virginia must not only rethink and reconsider our thoughts and words; we must also revise and enact our laws to welcome both chosen and native West Virginians of every race, gender, religion, and yes, sexuality without malice or discrimination. According to Dr. King, “The time is always right to do what is right.” Or as Sen. Carmichael once said, “Until we get the courage, the political will and the courage that will substantially alter the life course of our children — then shame on us.” For the sake of our children and the least among us, I pray that lawmakers find courage to do what is right now, not what will be convenient later.