Scholarship of hope restored: what is the next step?

With the reinstatement of the Hope Scholarship Program by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, the concept of public funding of private education is becoming a reality.

Morgantown mother Katie Switzer appealed the Hope Scholarship and won. She said her daughter, Ruth, had a rare speech disorder best treated by a private speech therapist who doesn’t take insurance.

“We used the early intervention program here in West Virginia called Birth to Three and it was awesome. But when she graduated from that program, we were able to find a speech therapist who specialized in apraxia of speech,” Switzer said. “At the time, there was only one in the state who practiced in person. Unfortunately, most speech therapists are not trained to treat this disorder, so we have been paying for her to see this private speech therapist for over two years now.

Switzer and her daughter love her kindergarten class at public school, but she said it didn’t meet all of Ruth’s educational needs. Switzer hopes the Hope Scholarships can generate new revenue streams for public schools.

“It opens the door to make this system really flexible,” Switzer said. “A system in which public schools can provide programs for homeschoolers or private school children, and they can take Hope’s money”

Attorney Tamerlin Godley of Public Funds, Public Schools represented parents challenging the constitutionality of the Hope Scholarships. She said that in the three countries that have instituted universal vouchers, education is suffering.

“In all of these countries, all of the peer-reviewed research shows that there is increased segregation, by race and by socioeconomics,” Godley said. “And success in public schools is dropping dramatically.”

Godley said students and public schools in West Virginia will also suffer from millions of dollars in misappropriated funding.

These bills are introduced by people who want to dismantle public education,” Godley said. “We know the people behind this. Public education is the primary driver of social mobility in the United States.

The split decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals came after just two days of deliberations.

In July, Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit adopted the legislative programruling that the $4,300 offered to approximately 3,000 students for non-public school education expenses was unconstitutional, diverting millions of dollars from an already underfunded public school system.

The order quashing the lower court’s decision noted “The nature of the constitutional issues at issue and the need to resolve the appeal in an expedited manner.”

An opinion of the Supreme Court of Appeal will be delivered later.

Godley said there was a chance the case could go to the Circuit Court.

State Treasurer Riley Moore chairs the Hope Scholarship Board. He said Hope’s payments are set to go out Jan. 1 for the winter semester and expects them to be paid retroactively for the fall semester.

“All of this could come in one lump sum in January. But part of that, obviously, will depend on how quickly we can get the Department of Education and everybody moving,” Moore said. “We are going to attack extremely hard. The first step in this process is to obtain Board approval of my motion to file this emergency rule to authorize payments. »

Moore said he sees no outstanding negative effects of Hope Scholarship funding on public education.

“We’re making those education dollars competitive. This will elevate the level and quality of education in the state of West Virginia,” Moore said. “If a student decides to leave a public school and go to a private school, a Christian school, or a home school, those dollars will go with that student, and the financial requirements to educate that student will no longer exist for that public school. ”

Moore said a free education for West Virginia students isn’t going away.

In a statement, West Virginia Board of Education Chairman Paul Hardesty said the board respects the court’s decision and will move forward without delay.

“I am confident that this legislature and this governor will continue to fund public education at adequate levels,” Hardesty said. “The State Board directed the State Superintendent and the State Department of Education to work closely with the State Treasurer to support transparent and timely implementation of the scholarship program Hope.”

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