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Hope for Educational Freedom Postponed in West Virginia

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n On March 29, 2021, the Hope Scholarship was established in West Virginia. At the time of its passage, Hope was the broadest education savings account in the country, available to 93% of West Virginia families looking for alternative education options. The aptly named Hope Scholarship represents Mountain State’s shift toward greater educational freedom and hope for families that previously felt trapped in a state that puts the system before the student.

West Virginia leads the county in the 2021 Year of Education Choices as 18 states enacted new programs and 21 states expanded existing programs. By 2021, it is estimated that approximately 3.6 million students will be eligible for educational choice programs.

However, on July 6, 2022, Hope was postponed to Mountain State. After months of preparation by health care providers and their families to participate, the Kanawha County Circuit Court issued an interim and permanent injunction against the program. This brought all operations to a halt and left more than 3,100 students in chaos.

Now, a little more than a month later, the Intermediate Court of Appeals has rejected their application for stay, forcing the family to scrap their plans and quickly turn around without much guidance. For many, this means returning to traditional public schools that did not meet the needs of their students.

My colleagues at the West Virginia Cardinals Institute for Policy, friends at the West Virginia Education Coalition and the School of Love (WV), and many of my West Virginia parents, including myself, are among the hundreds of families whose lives have been thrown into chaos. I’ve been talking to following this judgment.

The HOPE Scholarship, before it passed, was a lifeline for many families who did not have a clear path to giving their children a bright educational future. It was also a lighthouse leading other states to do so.

Critics of school choice often say that families should pay for alternatives out of their own pocket. But that sentiment is a thin layer of classism. Most families, especially those in West Virginia, don’t have the means to pay for his education twice. One for taxes and another for her out-of-pocket for another education option.

“I am delighted that my daughters have been accepted into the program. We are trying to find other options and resources for attending private school, but due to my own “I can’t work much. Our family needs the Hope Scholarships so that our daughters can go to the schools they need,” said Chelsea, the mother of two Hope Scholarships.

“The Hope Scholarship has been a huge blessing to my family. My husband has just started a new job and his salary has been drastically cut, so I was relieved to not have to worry about paying for my son’s education. “After this recent ruling, my husband and I are back in the planning stages,” said Jennifer, a Boone County mother.

Opponents of school choice also frequently criticized the Hope Scholarship for being inadequate for families whose children may need additional learning therapy. As Katie Switzer can attest, the Hope Scholarship was the only way my daughter could access the learning therapy she needed for her speech apraxia, dyslexia, and ADHD. Switzer said it has never been a bad time to lose hope.

“We are paying for Ruth’s speech therapy out of our pre-tax health savings account. At the same time as the hearing, our third child underwent heart surgery. “The high cost would completely deplete the HSA that we normally use to pay for Ruth’s speech therapy,” she said. “We were relying on the Hope Scholarship to fund Ruth’s speech therapy services and dyslexia reading program in the fall. have been forced to change their entire support plan.

The pain these families are feeling is undeniable. I regret that the West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals did not grant a stay of the injunction against the Hope Scholarship Program. I have been left with an enviable job.

Lighthouse rays may be dimmed by fog, but thankfully they are not. I’m here. But this shouldn’t have happened in the first place. It’s time to stop putting off hope for your mountain state family.

Amanda Kieffer is Communications Director at the West Virginia Cardinal Institute for Policy Studies.