The West Virginia Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision that blocked a public scholarship fund for use at private schools, holding that the Kanawha County Circuit Court erred when it said the school voucher law was unconstitutional.
The court held that the program is indeed constitutional, thus allowing the program to provide money to students leaving the public school system for either charter, private, religious, or home-schooling. Justices did not immediately provide their reasoning but said “a detailed opinion” will follow the decision, according to court records.
Supporters of the scholarship fund known as the Hope Scholarship program said it would help low-income families seeking alternative education, while attorneys for families who sued to keep the scholarship from taking effect argued it would divert essential funding away from public school systems.
“Today’s order is a tremendous victory for the hard-working families across West Virginia who deserve increased options for their children’s individual educational needs,” Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, said in a statement.
“It has always been my goal to help make our State first in the nation when it comes to educational opportunities for West Virginia’s kids. Today’s win will make an incredible difference for thousands of families across the State — 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. I’m proud of our office’s work to defend this important program and the rule of law,” Morrisey added.
State Treasurer Riley Moore, chairman of the Hope Scholarship Board, issued a statement calling the challengers of the program “out-of-state trial lawyers and liberal activists who are trying to block educational freedom and school choice for the children of our state.”
He also said more information would be available in the coming about applying for the scholarship program.
The state Supreme Court decision came only two days after the court heard oral arguments on the matter, which clarified the decision came soon “given the nature of the constitutional matters at issue and the need to resolve the appeal in an expedited manner.”
Several recent studies ranking the education quality of states have found West Virginia is among the lowest in quality, with one study placing the Mountain State last out of all 50 states.