Lawsuit seeks judgment and injunction against scholarship program | News, Sports, Jobs

CHARLESTON — With two months to go until the application period opens, a lawsuit filed Wednesday could delay the rollout of West Virginia’s foray into college savings accounts.

The New Jersey-based Education Law Center filed a lawsuit in Kanawha County Circuit Court on Wednesday seeking a judgment and injunction against the Hope Scholarship Program.

Putnam County parent Travis Beaver, Upshur County parent Karen Kalar, and Raleigh County teacher Wendy Peters filed suit against state treasurer Riley Moore, the state’s superintendent of schools. State Clayton Burch, Chairman of the State Board of Education Miller Hall, Speaker of the Senate Craig Blair, Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw and Governor Jim Justice.

Beaver, Kalar and Peters are represented by attorneys from the Education Law Center and Charleston attorney John Tinney Jr. They argue that the Hope Scholarship violates provisions of the West Virginia Constitution requiring the state to provide a “Complete and effective system of free schools.”

“Public education is a basic right in West Virginia,” Tinney wrote. “The founding leaders of the state enshrined the importance of public education in the state constitution from the outset. The legislature can take no action that would go beyond or frustrate this affirmative constitutional obligation.

“Similarly, funding for public education is considered West Virginia’s highest constitutional priority, along with the state’s obligation to repay its debt,” Tinney continued. “Any action that depletes public school funding is subject to rigorous scrutiny. The most demanding judicial control.

The Hope Scholarship gives parents the opportunity to use a portion of their per-student spending from the state school aid formula for educational expenses, such as private school tuition, tutoring home care, learning aids and other acceptable expenses.

Upon implementation, any student enrolled full-time in a public school for the entire previous year or for 45 calendar days is eligible to apply for the scholarship, although students cannot remain enrolled full-time in schools public to continue receiving the scholarship.

The State Treasurer is responsible for administering the Hope Scholarship Program. The application period opens on March 1 and the program begins at the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

The Legislative Assembly passed the 2013 House Bill creating the Hope Scholarship last year. The bill caps the Hope Scholarship at $4,600 per student and could cost around $24 million per year when implemented in 2022 if every eligible student applies.

The bill also opens the Hope Scholarship program to eligible public, private and home-schooled students by 2026, raising the cost to $102.9 million by fiscal year. 2027.

The Hope Scholarship has been hailed by national and state school choice supporters as one of the most expansive college savings account programs in the nation. In his court filing, Tinney often refers to the Hope Fellowship as a “Well” program.

“HB 2013 uses public funds to pay vouchers for private education and home schooling expenses and will divert millions of public dollars from public education”, Tinney wrote. “Ultimately, the state will subsidize private schools and homeschooling at a cost of more than $100 million each year.”

Tinney also said that the Hope Scholarship Board created by HB 2013 usurps the authority of the State Board of Education and that the law does not include specific anti-discrimination provisions already covered by federal law.

Supporters of the Hope scholarship, including the education advocacy group, yes. each child. and the West Virginia chapter of the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, spoke out against the lawsuit on Wednesday.

“It is disappointing that this effort attempts to remove access to Hope scholarships which allow nearly all public school students access to a personalized education that meets their unique needs, whether public, private, charter , virtual, tutoring or any other type of educational experience”, said yes. each child. Executive Director Andrew Clark.

“This lawsuit simply represents the last fleeting effort by special interests to prevent children from having the educational flexibility they deserve,” said AFP-WV state director Jason Huffman. “It is disappointing that the purpose of this bogus lawsuit is to delay and deprive thousands of parents of their newfound ability to ensure their children have access to the education that best suits their unique needs.”

(Adams can be contacted at [email protected])

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Ryan H. Bowman