Home Education A judge has blocked West Virginia’s school voucher law

A judge has blocked West Virginia’s school voucher law

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CHARLESTON, WV (AP) – A judge in West Virginia’s capital struck down a law Wednesday that would have sent …

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A judge in West Virginia’s capital struck down a law Wednesday that would have sent public money to a program that encouraged families to withdraw their children from K-12 public schools.

Immediately after the ruling, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey said his office plans to appeal.

Kanawha County District Court Judge Joanna Thabit ruled that the Hope Scholarship voucher program, which would be one of the largest school choice programs in the country, violates the state’s constitutional mandate to provide a “thorough and effective system of free schools.” »

The law, passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice last year, allows families to apply for public funding to support private school tuition, homeschooling and a wide range of other expenses.

Scheduled to go into effect in the 2022-23 school year, more than 3,000 students have been approved to receive about $4,300 each during the program’s enrollment cycle.

Families could not receive money if their children were already homeschooled or attending private school. To qualify, students must have been enrolled in a West Virginia public school in the past year or entered kindergarten in the following school year.

In January, three parents sued, saying the program encourages students to drop out of public schools and siphons funds from the state education system. The lawsuit was supported by the West Virginia Board of Education and the superintendent of schools.

Dale Lee, president of West Virginia’s largest teachers union, said Wednesday that parents have the right to choose whether they want to homeschool their children or send them to private schools. However, the state should not use taxpayer dollars to fund that choice, he said.

“It’s one thing to let parents choose where their children are educated, but it’s quite another to pull them away from our public schools with public money as an incentive,” he said.

State Treasurer Riley Moore, chairman of the Hope Scholarship Board, said he was “deeply disappointed” in Wednesday’s ruling and would support an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

“More than 3,100 West Virginia students relied on this funding in the fall, and now — at the last minute — they may not be able to get the educational services they want and need,” he said in a statement.

Moore said he and other state officials “strongly believe” the program is constitutional.

“We will vigorously defend our implementation of this Program, which the people of West Virginia have clearly demonstrated that they want West Virginia families to be able to choose the educational opportunities that are best for their children,” he said.

Democratic Sen. Richard Lindsay, who represents the Charleston metro area, said Wednesday that he agreed with the ruling but felt sorry for the families who were given vouchers and are now “in limbo because of a law that was constitutionally suspect.” or invalid start.”

“The HOPE voucher, left unchecked and unregulated, is extreme, unconstitutional and will ultimately lead to the consolidation or closure of WV public schools,” he said.

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