WV lawmakers jump ahead of nation with school choice program

Monday, April 5, 2021
 | 
Bob Kellogg, Billy Davis (OneNewsNow.com)

cash currency and Statue of LibertyWest Virginia is implementing a state education program that is setting aside millions of dollars for families to choose an educational path.

Gov. Jim Justice signed legislation last week implementing the Hope Scholarship program, which gives parents a portion of the per-pupil expenditure to use for education expenses such as private-school tuition and home tutoring.

The Inter-Mountain newspaper reported the signing of HB 2013 means West Virginia has approved the “most expansive” education savings account program that is offered anywhere in the nation.

If every public school student applies, the program would cost about $24 million annually by capping the scholarship at $4,600 per student.

The “expansive” description apparently comes from what is coming: In 2026, the scholarship opens up for private school students and homeschoolers, too, at an estimated cost of $102.9 million by 2027.

According to the website Educationdata.org, West Virginia spends approximately $3.1 billion, or $11,334 per pupil, among its public schools when federal, state, and local tax dollars are added together.

The state government itself divides $1.9 billion, or $6,976, per public school student.

The Mountain State currently ranks 31st in spending and 34th in funding public schools among all 50 states.

West Virginia, meanwhile, ranks 45th among the 50 states according to a state-by-state comparison of student achievement.

Reacting to the new education law, Mike Donnelly of the Home School Legal Defense Association points out the Hope Scholarship does not provide funds for current homeschoolers in the state but instead, as of now, includes students currently enrolled for at least 45 days in a public school.  

"This is different from homeschooling,” he advises. “Under this law, parents who do it themselves, they would be tested annually and would have other requirements that they'll have to meet.”

That state-level scrutiny is opposed by Donnelly and HSLDA but, during legislative debate over HB 2013, the homeschooling advocate staked out a neutral stance while other groups lobbied legislators for passage of the scholarship program.

Donnelly

"We're concerned that government funding of education of any kind of private education will lead to increased regulation,” Donnelly explains. “And so we're cautious about this bill although we do support increased choices for parents."

According to the newspaper, groups that supported HB 2013 include West Virginia Christian Education Association, the Association of Christian Schools International, Catholic Education Partners, ExcelinEd in Action, EdChoice, Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy, and Education Choice West Virginia.

The scholarship program was opposed by teachers’ unions and a liberal think tank, West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy.

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