Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed his opening brief in West Virginia Supreme Court amid the fight to reinstate the Hope Scholarship program.
Morrissey is asking the state’s highest court to dismiss an injunction preventing a major school choice initiative from being implemented for the 2022-2023 school year.
The $14.5 million program would give West Virginia parents $4,600 per pupil to cover educational expenses, such as private-school tuition, supplemental learning programs, and home tutoring. The West Virginia Treasurer would have overseen the program and the scholarship amount could vary annually. While the program was initially only available for students who had been enrolled in state public schools, the program would have been expanded in 2026 to include those in private schools or who homeschool.
More than 3,140 applications for the Hope Scholarship program had been granted following the May 15 deadline.
Opponents of the program, which included the West Virginia Department of Education, said it violated the state’s constitution by failing to provide “a thorough and efficient system of free education,” per WSAZ. They believe the program incentivizes parents to pull their children from public schools.
“The bottom line is the enrollment numbers will decrease which means that our money will decrease in the public schools,” Wendy Peters, a Raleigh County teacher who is one of the plaintiffs on the initial challenge filed against the Hope Scholarship, told West Virginia Public Broadcasting. “A lot of times our most vulnerable children who have special needs like my son will not get the services that they need.”
On July 6, Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit granted temporary and permanent injunctions which blocked the program from going into effect.
“The lower court’s ruling undermining parents’ freedom to choose how they educate their children is legally wrong and deeply disappointing, and we are ready to appeal as soon as the lower court issues its written order confirming its ruling from nearly two weeks ago,” Morrisey said in a statement, per Fox News. “In the meantime, we are urging the appellate court to stay the decision so that thousands of West Virginia families can receive the money the Legislature intended for the upcoming school year — which starts in a matter of weeks.”
He filed a motion for a stay of Tabit’s decision on July 19, arguing that “the district court acted without jurisdiction, awarded relief that no party had requested, agreed with baseless claims, and speculated harms into existence” while leaving “thousands of West Virginia families … in limbo, questioning whether they can afford the education they planned for their kids this coming year.”
“A stay would also serve the public interest … because the Act increases parental autonomy in the realm of education,” wrote Morrisey.
In court filings on Sept. 7, the attorney general’s office denied allegations that the implementation of the Hope Scholarship program would negatively impact West Virginia public schools.
“Nothing about this initiative should have created constitutional concern,” wrote the solicitor general for the Attorney General’s Office Lindsay See, per The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.
“The Act did not purport to touch our State’s public schools. It did not draw a cent from the School Fund or take anything from appropriations reserved for public education,” See added. “It did not modify the Board of Education’s traditional authority. It did introduce more flexibility, further empowering parents to select a nonpublic education should they choose.”
The West Virginia Supreme Court will hear the case in an expedited hearing on Oct. 4.