CLARKSBURG, WV (WBOY) — Despite ongoing litigation against it, the Hope Scholarship is continuing to receive applications for the 2022-2023 school year until Monday, May 16. The Hope Scholarship is a new education savings account program that was signed into law last year. The program is designed to give financial assistance to parents who choose to home school or enroll their child in a private school, according to the bill.

In order to qualify for the scholarship, the student must be a West Virginia resident and either be…

  • …eligible for or required to be enrolled in kindergarten
  • …enrolled full-time in public school in West Virginia for the entirety of the previous academic year, or
  • …enrolled full-time and attending a public school in West Virginia for at least 45 days during the current term at the time of application

The scholarship amount is calculated each year based on last year’s average share of student aid per child. This year, the scholarship is offering $4,298 per student. As of May 9, a total of 2,402 students received an award, according to the State Treasurer’s office. Leah Peck, parent of four-year-old Silas, applied for the scholarship and said that it was an easy process.

“The reason I was thinking about it for Silas is just that I love the idea of a specialized education,” said Peck, “He has thrived in public school. I mean, he’s really done well, so I actually don’t know if I will be moving him, but I like to know that I can if I want to.”

Anyone interested in applying can go to hopescholarshipwv.com to fill out the online application. A parent will need their child’s WVEIS ID number, which is often their lunch number, to fill out the application. They will also need to create an account through the Education Market Assistant portal link before applying. After filling out the application, parents will also have to complete a letter of intent to send to the county superintendent in their county of residence. A sample Notice of Intent letter is provided on the Treasurer’s website. The first distribution of Home Scholarship funds for approved applicants will be available for qualified expenses through the program’s online portal by August 15, according to the State Treasurer’s office.

The nonprofit Love Your School was started in Arizona to help parents find school options, and a branch opened in West Virginia to help parents navigate the Hope Scholarship process. Peck said they were a huge help to her as she was filling out her application. After her experience with them, she became a Grassroots Coordinator for the organization and assists other parents in the process.

“Several of my friends are actually choosing faith-based curriculums, and I think that suits their families very well, and I have some friends who are even agnostic and are still choosing to move their child over to a private school even if it’s faith-based because they want that particular type of structure for their children,” said Peck, “And I have one friend that is actually going to homeschool her kids, and she’s very excited about it. It’s something she’s always wanted to do, and now she has the freedom to do that. I think the biggest thing is that they are all able to choose for their individual circumstances.”

Parents who want to learn more about the scholarship or need some assistance in applying can email Peck at leah@loveyourschoolwv.org or call 304-769-9800.

Lawsuit

On January 19th, three parents, Travis Beaver, Karen Kalar, and Wendy Peters, filed three similar lawsuits in the Kanawha County Circuit Court. According to the complaint, the parents said the program is unconstitutional because it takes money away from public schools, does not include any provisions to prevent discrimination, and does not vet the education service providers or provide any qualification requirements.

“Additionally, the vouchers are essentially unavailable to students in poverty and students with disabilities, among others,” the complaint reads, “The voucher amount of approximately $5,000 will not be enough to pay for tuition at many private schools, meaning the vouchers will serve largely as a subsidy to families that can afford to bridge that gap. Students from low-income families cannot do so.”

The plaintiffs asked the court to issue an injunction to prohibit the state from starting the program. According to the West Virginia Attorney General’s office, one of the plaintiffs, Kalar, is in the process of voluntarily dismissing her case, and the other two are being consolidated into a single civil action.

On April 4th, Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia Attorney General, filed two motions on behalf of Riley Moore, State Treasurer, Governor Jim Justice, and Craig Blair, Senate President, asking the court to dismiss the lawsuits on the grounds that the Hope Scholarship program does not violate the West Virginia Constitution and that the plaintiffs have not alleged or suffered any concrete or imminent injury, and that the Legislature’s policy decision to create and fund the program is a non-justiciable political question that is not subject to judicial review, according to the Attorney General’s office.

The Attorney General’s office said a hearing on the parties’ various motions has been tentatively scheduled on June 23rd.