ALEC ranked West Virginia’s education system as the fifth worst in the country and gave it failing grades for its lack of School Choice programs and extensive regulatory burden on homeschools. Now, new legislation seeks to change that.
On March 29, 2021, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and the West Virginia legislature put students first when they signed into law the most expansive education savings account legislation in the nation. This law refocuses education funding on students not expensive administrative bureaucracy and provides state funds for students in public schools to use on a wide array of education expenses.
HB 2013, was first introduced by West Virginia Delegate Joe Carey Ellington Jr. (R) on February 10, 2021. It creates the Hope Scholarship, which provides each child with an educational savings account of $4,600 per year for private and home-schooling expenses. This money would be directly paid to families and allow families to spend this money on a wide range of different educational expenses. Such items include “tutors, books, technology, broadband, special-needs therapies, and even college credits.”
Prior to this legislation, school choice was the privilege of only the wealthy elites. Educational Savings accounts expand that choice to almost every student in West Virginia regardless of their income or zip code. These educational savings accounts will provide parents, instead of government bureaucrats, the ability to make decisions that best fulfill the academic demands of their children and allow each child the best chance to succeed.
By allowing all students currently enrolled at public schools for kindergarten or for a minimum of 45 days in schools to apply for an account, Hope scholarships give West Virginian families control over their own education While some states like Mississippi and have education savings account programs, both states limit their educational savings account programs to children with special needs. By not limiting the program based on need, income, or geography, Heritage Foundation estimated that more than “90% of the student population in West Virginia will be eligible immediately upon implementation of the program in 2022.”
Studies have repeatedly shown that all students can’t thrive under one-size-fits-all public education programs. By giving parents the resources and the ability to choose plans that fit their children the best, West Virginia ensures that every taxpayer dollar spent on education is used efficiently and effectively.