West Virginia's top court upholds private school scholarships in victory for parents, advocates say


West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is lauding a state Supreme Court ruling that upholds the state’s “Hope Scholarship Act,” a year-old law allowing parents to send children to private and often faith-based schools.

Mr. Morrissey called the decision Thursday “a tremendous victory for the hard-working families across West Virginia who deserve increased options for their children’s individual educational needs.”

“This is an important law that will benefit hard-working families,” he said. “I am happy to be able to successfully defend this Act — our kids deserve the best educational options available.”

The Kanawha County circuit court blocked the program in July, putting the applications of an estimated 3,000 families at risk for the 2022 school year. The lower court agreed with parents and educators who sued the state and argued that the scholarships would siphon funds from public education.

But the state Supreme Court held that the program is constitutional. 

The scholarships give students an annual maximum of $4,300 — an amount media reports say is equal to what the school districts get from the state per pupil — and can be spent on homeschooling expenses and tuition costs.

The state said the scholarships “did not draw a cent from the School Fund or take anything from appropriations reserved for public education.”

Other supporters argued the program levels the playing field for disadvantaged families who want educational alternatives to public education. The West Virginia Christian Education Association, in a brief to the state Supreme Court, said the lower court’s injunction “irreparably” harmed those families as well as the group’s member schools “that had planned for and reasonably relied on the availability” of monies from the program.

John Bursch, a senior counsel with the public-interest law firm Alliance Defending Freedom who represented the state Christian schools group, said in a statement, “We’re pleased West Virginia’s high court has allowed this program to be fully implemented. With the future of Hope Scholarship funding secure, West Virginia families can once again select schools for their children that improve their educational opportunities and align with their faith.”

Attorney Tamerlin Godley, a member of the legal team representing opponents to the scholarship program, did not immediately respond to a query asking whether any further appeals were contemplated.


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