Students forced to withdrawal from private schools after lawsuit against Hope Scholarship freezes funding
RALEIGH COUNTY, W.Va. (WVVA) - In 2021, the West Virginia Legislature passed the Hope Scholarship Bill, which designated vouchers for students leaving the public school system.
This summer, a Kanawha County Judge blocked the program after a lawsuit was filed. This halted families’ ability to receive scholarship funds.
“The Hope Scholarship has created some challenges for families, and some did have to drop out,” said State Senator Rollan Roberts. Roberts was actively involved in the passage of the Hope Scholarship. He also serves as administrator of Victory Baptist Academy in Beaver.
He says more than 3,000 students were accepted into the Hope Scholarship Program, and another 1,500 were waiting to see if they were eligible. Each student would receive roughly $4,000 to go toward costs associated with transitioning out of the public school system.
With West Virginia ranked as one of the lowest in the country in terms of academic success in public schools, Roberts says the lawsuit is barring students from receiving a quality education.
“You have almost five thousand children right here just with the Hope Scholarship that they think that this is something that might be able to help kids, but, bless their hearts, the kids are struggling, and the families are hurting.”
The plaintiffs of the lawsuit include former State Superintendent Clayton Burch and School Board President Miller Hall. Supporters of the suit say the scholarship program challenges the Constitution by taking away from the public school system.
President of the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) Dale Lee shared his thoughts on the program:
“The proponents of this will say it’s about choice. It’s not about choice. Parents have a choice already. They can home school, private school, church school, whatever they choose to do, and I accept that. This is about the public tax dollars paying for that choice and taking money away from the public schools to do that.”
Roberts, however, says a light needs to be shone on what he calls an “out-of-balance” educational system. He says state educational leaders are more focused on their own gain than the success of the student and the well-being of the teacher.
“I am an advocate for, and I’m proud of our West Virginia teachers and service personnel. I think they sacrifice so much that they never get the credit that is due them; however, they are toiling in a system that is well-burdened with regulations and micromanagement and too much of a top-heavy administration set up in the system, and things need to be adjusted.”
The scholarship’s continuation is being supported by State Treasurer Riley Moore and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Just last week, Morrisey made an appeal to the Supreme Court, asking for the program to be reinstated while it is being litigated.
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