Amendment 4: An Assault on West Virginia’s Education System


Zachary Summers, Staff Reporter

As West Virginians across the state prepare to head to the polls, debate about a proposed amendment on the ballot has begun. If passed, Amendment 4 would allow the state legislature to have ultimate control over what is taught in classrooms across the state. Politicians, not education experts would control state instruction and curriculum. If they disagree with the proposed curriculum, Amendment 4 gives them the option to simply override the experts who drafted it. A majority is necessary for it to be added to the state constitution.

I view the proposed amendment, partly, as an act of retaliation following the teachers strike in 2018-2019. Educators sought a pay increase and adjustments to their benefits. Since then the legislature has acted increasingly hostile toward our education system. In 2021, both legislative bodies voted to expand on previous legislation in favor of public charter schools. Charter schools could exacerbate issues that our education system is currently facing. West Virginia provides funding based on the number of students each county has each year. Integrating charter schools in counties could divert desperately needed funds from public schools to charter schools.

The most disturbing aspect of this amendment is that it could allow partisan politics to pervade the classroom. The Republican-controlled legislature has proven that they cannot be unbiased when creating laws for public schools. This is the latest attempt by conservatives to regulate instruction and curriculum. Many legislators have proposed bills such as House Bill 4011 which was labeled the Anti-Stereotyping Act”. While the bill did not become law, it would have forced West Virginia Public schools to post curriculum and training materials for the public to see. It aimed at preventing what is known as Critical Race Theory from being taught in schools. Critical Race Theory is a term that is used broadly in America as a theory of learning that seeks to analyze how racism is entrenched in American institutions. Conservatives have voiced concern that it is used to make white people feel bad for their part in the treatment of minorities in history. During an Interview with WV Public Broadcasting, President of the West Virginia Education Association Dale Lee refuted their claims about Critical Race Theory stating, Nowhere in our West Virginia public schools do we teach it. We teach truths; we have to allow our students to become critical thinkers.

Many educators are also worried that Amendment 4 may act as a backdoor to ban books that conservatives do not want in classrooms. Book banning is a growing trend in several conservative states. According to information from PEN America, between July 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, 1,145 books have been prohibited from being used in classrooms by school districts across America. Caldwell-Stone, who serves as the director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the ALA states that books written by LGBTQ+ authors suffer the most. He goes on to say books being targeted today, Almost exclusively deal with gender identity and sexual orientation.In 2021, West Virginia lawmakers introduced legislation aimed at removing any instruction regarding sexuality in schools. House Bill 2157, which ultimately died in committee, would have banned any posters or displays referring to the LGBTQ+ community in schools. Other states have passed similar legislation that has become  known collectively as dont say gaylegislation.

Unsurprisingly, Amendment 4 is the latest tactic to create a framework within the state to push a conservative agenda on West Virginia students. It is especially dangerous because it gives politicians the ability to disregard education experts’ recommendations on education. Education in the mountain state should not be partisan. It should be about providing the best educational outcomes for our students. I encourage all West Virginians to ignore the unfounded fear-mongering used by some politicians to justify such a harmful proposed amendment. Amendment 4 is a step toward further impairing efforts to provide quality public education in the mountain state.