State Senator Patricia Rucker Stands Up for Families, School Choice

May 3, 2024
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By: Josh Worden and David Harding

West Virginia State Senator Patricia Rucker had dreams of making a difference as an educator, but little did she know that she would end up influencing education on a much larger scale than she ever imagined.

Rucker’s journey from being a public school teacher to homeschooling her children and eventually serving as a state senator has shaped her into a strong advocate for school choice. During her second term, Rucker spearheaded the passage of a bill that established the broadest, most universal Educational Savings Account (ESA) program in America. She also serves as Chairman of the State Senate Education Committee.

At the upcoming ACSI Public Policy & Advocacy Summit, scheduled for September 16–18 in Washington, D.C., Rucker will share her insights on the significance of school choice and the pursuit of high-quality Christian education. 

Before venturing into politics, Rucker taught social studies for a year and a half at a public school in Montgomery County, Maryland.

“It was my dream from 11 years old to be a social studies teacher," Rucker said.

Having achieved this goal, she and her husband found out she was pregnant with their first child. Even while on bed rest during the pregnancy, Rucker planned to return to teaching.

"But I knew when they put that baby in my arms that I was not going to leave her to someone else to raise,” Rucker said. “God bless my husband for supporting me.”

Despite not returning to the teaching profession, Rucker embraced a whirlwind of activity at home. She had five children in the next 10 years and welcomed the role of a homeschooling parent. During this time, she took the initiative to establish a local Tea Party chapter and served as its president. All the while, her desire to see schooling options improve remained steadfast.

“I enjoyed teaching, but I was also disappointed in the way public school was structured,” she said. “They gave me a book and said, ‘Follow this book.’ They didn’t give me any flexibility in following my instincts."

As Tea Party President, Rucker recruited candidates to run for various offices. In 2014, she was unable to find anyone to oppose a Democratic incumbent for the West Virginia House of Delegates.

“He was considered unbeatable. Too powerful, too strong, had too much money,” Rucker said. “No one would run against him. At the last second, one of the people I had helped get elected called me and said, ‘Why don’t you throw your name in?’”

Rucker agreed, if for no other reason than to have two choices on the ballot. Without any funding, her only campaigning option was to go door to door.

“I discovered I loved it,” Rucker said. “I became addicted to it. I loved meeting people and hearing their concerns.”

She ended up losing that race by only 133 votes.

She did not anticipate running for office ever again, but a transformative experience while on her first visit to the West Virginia Capitol changed everything.

“When we walked into the Senate Chamber, I heard a voice in my head say, ‘You will be sitting here,’” Rucker said. “As the voice spoke to me, it directed my eyes to the left side of the room, which I had no way of knowing was where the Republicans sat.”

Rucker once more entered the political arena, this time as a contender for the State Senate seat in the 2016 race. She spent a year and a half going door to door, connecting with voters. Despite facing the same opponent as in the previous election, Rucker came out victorious.

Her mission to change the education system in West Virginia had only just begun. Determined to revitalize public schools, she encountered formidable resistance.

“The public school establishment in West Virginia was so strong,” Rucker said. “Everyone was scared of the teachers' unions, and it’s awful. Everything I thought about public school was worse than I thought. That’s how I came to believe so strongly in school choice.”

The fruits of her labor in advocating for school choice were realized when the ESA bill was passed in her second term. Rucker ensured that the bill included explicit provisions safeguarding the autonomy of private schools.

"Just because you accept this money, it doesn’t mean we get to tell you how to run your school,” Rucker said. “We don’t have a say in your hiring, your tuition, or what you’re doing.”

The inspiration behind her work in the West Virginia Senate is rooted in her upbringing in Venezuela. She appreciates the freedoms in America, yet realizes they are not guaranteed forever. 

"I understand government tends to think it knows better than you, the individual,” she said. “I will always fight against that."

For more information on the Public Policy & Advocacy Summit that will feature Rucker and other keynote speakers, visit