Bill Creating Education Savings Accounts For Homeschool, Private School Students Expands
The West Virginia House of Delegates considered amendments Wednesday to a bill that would establish the Hope Scholarship Program, which creates education savings accounts in the state for certain students.
HB 2013 applies to students who are currently enrolled in public school but are looking to switch to homeschool or private school. The bill would allow students who opt to leave public school to continue to receive public dollars to help support their education.
Students using these accounts would receive about $4,600 per year that could be used for tuition and fees at a participating school; for tutoring services; to pay for nationally standardized assessments; to pay for Advanced Placement examinations or any examinations related to college or university admission; for alternative education programs; and for fees for after-school or summer education programs and more.
The program would also apply to students who are of school age and about to start kindergarten.
An amendment to the bill, however, introduced by Del. Adam Burkhammer, R-Lewis, would allow for all homeschool and private school students to be eligible to apply for the Hope Scholarship Program in five years on July 1, 2026 -- even if that student never attended a public school.
The amendment sparked nearly an hour of debate and discussion on the House floor. Democrats who opposed the amendment voiced concerns that the fiscal impact would be enormous and would hurt county school systems’ overall budget.
“This is going to blow massive holes in county school system budgets,” said Del. Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, who is a public school teacher. “Considering the additional homeschool and private students, I just have a major concern about what that could do to our funding for our public schools, and I would urge rejection of this amendment.”
Del. Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, agreed. “We're going from $23 million to $100 million on this program. It's a huge part of the public budget,” Rowe said. “This bill has gone from very clearly stating that … it was a choice for the people in public schools to make to go try to find something different, and it was not for the folks who had already made that decision,” Rowe said. “By including those folks, it may feel somewhat equitable, but the price tag just went right through the roof.”
Republicans argued the amendment ensures that all students in the state will receive adequate financial support in education.
“This amendment provides the much needed equity in this program by allowing all homeschool and private school children that benefit from the taxes that their parents pay,” said House Finance Chair Eric Householder, R-Berkeley.
The lead sponsor of the amendment, Burkhammer, said it will allow all students a chance to succeed.
“I just want to remind us that we should not be putting dollar figures on kids,” Burkhammer said. “These are West Virginia kids. West Virginia families. West Virginia parents, and we're just looking out for them.”
Republicans also argued that since the amendment wouldn’t take effect until July 1, 2026, there would be time to sort out any issues if they arise.
Burkhammer’s amendment was adopted on a voice vote in the chamber.
Democrats proposed a handful of other amendments that were all rejected, including one that would have created a cap of no more than 2,500 students enrolled in the program. One would have created a non-discrimination section based on sexual orientation, gender identity and others. And another would have made it so that families making more than $50,000 a year would not be eligible for the program.
HB 2013 will be up for a full vote by the House chamber on Thursday.