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Morrisey Appeals Hope Scholarship To Supreme Court

HB 2013 would create the Hope Scholarship Program.
Perry Bennett
/
WV Legislative Photography
HB 2013 created the Hope Scholarship Act, now halted amid continued court challenges.

Following the Intermediate Court of Appeals denial of a requested stay on the Hope Scholarship ruling, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has now appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

“This is a good law and I will not let this minor setback derail my office in fighting for Hope Scholarship’s constitutionality,” Morrisey said. “This delay of funds will only hurt the thousands of families who were set to receive money from the Act. This is about protecting the fundamental freedom of parents to choose the best education for their children.”

The West Virginia Legislature established the Hope Scholarship in 2021, providing money for students leaving the public school system to use for a variety of educational costs. West Virginia’s program allows students old enough to enter the school system for the first time to be eligible immediately.

Last month, two West Virginia parents filed a lawsuit, claiming the so-called “voucher law” violates the state constitution. Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit halted the program, granting a temporary injunction. Explaining her ruling, she said the program undermines an already underfunded public school system. She said the legislature violated its constitutional obligation by passing a statute diverting millions of taxpayer dollars and incentivizing people to leave the public schools. She said that action would cause a reduction of students which would decrease funding for school teachers and all support staff.

In his Thursday coronavirus briefing, Gov. Jim Justice said about 3000 qualifying Hope Scholarship families promised about $4300 per student for this school year have been left hanging.

"That’s not much of a way to do business,” Justice said. “We will have to wait and see what the Supreme Court does. Hopefully we can expedite considering just how important this is to all those families.”

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee notes that our founding fathers said in the Constitution that we are to provide a free and thorough public education system, not through the private sector. Lee said families already have choices.

“They have the choice to homeschool their children, to public school their children, to private school their children, to church school them,” Lee said. “This is actually about the taxpayer dollars used to provide that choice for them.”

There were no attorney briefs filed in the appeal that was pending before the Intermediate Court of Appeals, so the judges could not review the case.

Morrisey’s newly filed stay motion and notice of appeal asks the Supreme Court of Appeals to rule on the entire Hope Scholarship case.

If accepted, the Supreme Court will work on an expedited schedule with this case, expedited here meaning outside the norms of service. Still, attorney briefs need to be filed by all parties involved, and there’s no guarantee on any decision being made before the upcoming school year.

Government Reporter, ryohe@wvpublic.org, 304-634-8123

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