Education /

West Virginia Supreme Court Rules Hope Scholarship Constitutional

‘This is a big win for educational freedom’ said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

West Virginia’s educational scholarship program that gives thousands of dollars to parents who unenroll their children from public school must be fairly and fully funded following a months-long legal battle. 

The state’s Supreme Court of Appeal ruled 3-2 that the program is constitutional on Oct. 6. The ruling overturns a lower court’s decision that prevented families from receiving funding to use toward their children’s education.

West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore commended the court for its decision, which he said restores “the ability for West Virginia families to choose the educational opportunities that best suit their children.” Moore promised the Hope Scholarship Board, of which he is a member, will meet “as soon as possible” to work out the immediate reinstatement of the program.

“This is a victory for West Virginia families over the out-of-state lawyers and liberal activists who are trying to block educational freedom and school choice for the children of our state,” Moore said in a statement. “Effective immediately, this program is back up and running to serve the people of this state and provide the educational options they need.” 

His office warned that the scholarship accounts will likely not be available until the spring semester as the July injunction blocked any transfer of funds to the program. 

Over 3,000 students were granted Hope Scholarships, which give families about $4,300 per student. The program offers state-funded scholarships to families who wish to remove their children from public K-12 schools. To qualify for the scholarship, a student must have attended a state public school during the previous year or be enrolled in kindergarten. Previously homeschooled children or students at private schools do not qualify.

The money can be used for “private school tuition, tutoring, credentialing, therapies, transportation” and other educational expenses, per EdChoiceThe $14 million program was passed by the state legislature and was originally scheduled to begin with the 2022-2023 school year.

The West Virginia Board of Education backed a lawsuit filed by three families in January who argued the scholarships took money away from public schools. 

In July, Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit ruled the Hope Scholarship violated the state constitution and blocked the program from sending money to scholarship recipients.

“The Hope Scholarship Act opens more doors for West Virginia students while leaving public schools with the funding and other resources they need to remain strong,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, per WTRF Wheeling.

Morrisey asked the state’s supreme court to intervene and permit the Hope Scholarship program to recommence. He argued the state is able to continue to fund public schools while also enacting a program that grants parents more options for their children’s education. 

“There’s no showing in this case at all that the legislature is failing to provide a thorough and efficient system of free schools. That is still going to take place. This is just providing an alternative for families here in West Virginia,” Moore told MetroNews on Aug. 3. 

The attorney general thanked the state Supreme Court on Twitter following their ruling.

WV kids deserve the best public schools and as many private sector options as possible,” Morrisey wrote. “This is a big win for educational freedom.”

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