BUCKHANNON — A lawsuit was filed earlier this year in regard to the West Virginia State Treasury’s Hope Scholarship. The scholarship program is an education savings account (ESA) that aids families in providing an individualized educational experience that works best for them. The lawsuit is currently requesting five counts of claims for relief.
The initial lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County on Wednesday, January 19. Plaintiffs include Putnam County parent Travis Beaver, Upshur County parent Karen Kalar and Raleigh County teacher Wendy Peters. Defendants include State Treasurer Riley Moore, State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch, State Board of Education President Miller Hall, State Senate President Craig Blair, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw and Governor Jim Justice.
Count 1 in the lawsuit states, “Violation of Article XII, Sections 1, 4 and 5 of the West Virginia Constitution- Exceeding and Frustrating the Legislature’s Constitutional Obligation to Provide for a Through and Efficient System of Free Schools.”
Count 2 in the lawsuit states, “Violation of Article XII, Sections 1 and 5 of the West Virginia Constitution- The Voucher Law Does Not Satisfy Strict Scrutiny.”
Count 3 in the lawsuit states, “Violation of Article XII, Sections 4 and 5 of the West Virginia Constitution- The School Fund Can Only Be Used for Public Schools and No Other Purpose Whatever.”
Count 4 in the lawsuit states, “Violation of Article XII, Section 2 of the West Virginia Constitution- The Voucher Law Impermissibly Usurps the Authority of the Board of Education.”
Count 5 in the lawsuit states, “Violation of Article VI, Section 39 of the West Virginia Constitution- The Voucher Law Is an Impermissible Special Law Excluding Voucher Students from Anti-Discrimination Protections.”
Further remarks within the court documents reveal the following, “Likewise, the Legislature’s obligation to provide for a through and efficient system of free schools prohibits it from frustrating that obligation by siphoning off millions of dollars of public funds to private education and homeschooling to the detriment of the students in public schools.” “The Voucher Law violates Article XII, Sections 1 and 5 of the West Virginia Constitution by reducing funding to public education without a compelling state interest or narrow tailoring. The Voucher Law therefore does not satisfy strict scrutiny and must be enjoined.” “Using public funds for vouchers to pay for private education and homeschooling is not in support of free schools.” “This violates the plain text of Article XII, Section 2 by divesting oversight and administration of certain public funds appropriated to the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDOE) to a separate and independent board.”
It is noted that the Hope Scholarship does not have an income limit and there is no enrollment cap. The account cap is noted to be 100% average per pupil aid. Additional information obtained from edchoice.org reports Parent Requirements as followed:
• Parent must sign an agreement to:
- Provide an education in the subjects of reading, language, mathematics, science and social studies
- Only use the Hope Scholarship for qualifying expenses
- Comply with all rules and requirements as promulgated by the Hope Scholarship Program Board
- Allow the student to participate in enrichment activities such as organized athletics, art, music and literature
- Alert the Hope Scholarship Program Board of any enrollment changes or withdrawals
The basic takeaway is that the lawsuit is questioning if the Hope Scholarship is unconstitutional. It is reported within court documents that all three parents that filed have special needs children. Special needs children are being impacted by this event as the Hope Scholarship is believed to be siphoning off funds from public schools and utilized in private and homeschooling settings.
Continue to follow The Record Delta for updates regarding the Hope Scholarship.