Editorials, Opinion

What you need to know about Amendments 3 & 4 before Nov. 8

Yesterday, we covered Amendments 1 and 2, so today we’ll go over Amendments 3 and 4 and what you need to know about them before Election Day.

Amendment 3 is arguably the least controversial but hardest to understand of all the proposals on the ballot. In essence, it brings the West Virginia Constitution in line with federal law when it comes to allowing churches charters of incorporation.

The state constitution prohibits the incorporation of churches or religious denominations. However, that law has been unenforceable since 2002, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a similar law in Virginia was unconstitutional. Because of that ruling, West Virginia has been granting churches charters of incorporation for the past two decades, even though doing so is technically illegal by state law. Amendment 3 brings the West Virginia Constitution in line with federal practice and will change the law to say churches can be incorporated.

The only reason one may wish to vote against Amendment 3 is if one is strongly against allowing churches and religious denominations to be incorporated. In theory — though very unlikely — the 2002 Supreme Court case permitting church incorporation could be overturned and the existing West Virginia law could go back into effect, as long as Amendment 3 does not pass.

Amendment 4 is being framed as parental control over children’s education, but in reality, it’s another Legislature power grab.

This amendment would force the West Virginia Board of Education to send everything to the Legislature for “review and approval.” If you think the bureaucratic red tape is bad now, imagine how much worse it could get.

The members of the state board of education made several valid points in their objection earlier this fall: If every policy and decision has to be approved by the Legislature, the board of education won’t be able to respond swiftly to situations as they arise; the Legislature only meets for 60 days, but the board meets monthly, year-round; and the Legislature changes every two years, so our school system would become subject to a constantly changing political system.

If you think the school system is slow to respond to problems now, just think how much worse it would get if the West Virginia Board of Education had to wait until January every year just to make basic policy or rule changes. Or until the governor calls a special session, only to hope that the BOE’s needs make the agenda. It’s a logistical nightmare waiting to happen, and it does nothing to serve the actual needs of our students and school staff. 

Our biggest fear is that the Legislature would hold everyday decisions regarding the educational system hostage in favor of fighting culture war battles, using our schools and students as pawns in a national game of outrage.  

If you’re looking for more parental control over children’s education, you won’t find it with Amendment 4 — you’d be giving political parties control over students’ education instead.