More often than not, legislative wins at the state level are hard-fought. This year, West Virginia was no exception.
In a major victory for West Virginia parents and students, the state legislature passed groundbreaking school choice legislation that will allow for 90% of K-12 students to qualify for Education Savings Accounts (ESA) equal to the state’s average per-pupil funding, starting in 2022. This legislation is already being touted as possible model legislation for other states across the country.
The legislature also increased the total number of charter schools permitted to open in the state, which was great news for West Virginia families seeking choice.
For those who are unfamiliar, an ESA program gives parents the power to choose the education that best suit their child’s needs. EdChoice describes this appropriately named ‘Hope Scholarship Program’ in greater depth:
“West Virginia’s Hope Scholarship Program is an education savings account (ESA) that allows eligible parents to receive the average per-pupil state funding already set aside for their children’s education onto an electronic, parent-controlled fund for educational expenses. Those expenses can include private school tuition, tutoring, credentialing, therapies, transportation and more. Learn more about how the program works on this page, including eligibility, funding, regulations and more.”
To read more about the specifics of this legislation, EdChoice provides an overview here.
This landmark legislation has been five years in the making according to state Senator Patricia Rucker, who vocally supported providing West Virginia students with alternatives to failing brick and mortar schools in her district.
During a webinar event held earlier this week, we heard from thought leaders and West Virginia-based education advocates for parent choice including Jason Huffman, Director of West Virginia for Americans for Prosperity, West Virginia State Senator Patricia Rucker and Garrett Ballengee, Executive Director of the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy. Hosted by EdChoice, this panel was moderated by its CEO Robert Enlow.
This panel shared lessons learned from this year’s successful legislative battle – and provided tactics for those who want to replicate similarly-difficult policy shifts in their own states. When asked how they brought together stakeholders with staunchly different views, all three presenters cited their willingness to reach out to groups they normally would not align with politically. Most importantly, they all agreed keeping the student front and center squashed petty political squabbles when the debate got heated. By keeping the best interest of the student first, these politically-motivated sentiments often fell to the wayside.
We appreciated the chance to learn more about this state-level victory in the midst of a tough pandemic year. We applaud West Virginia’s legislative body for recognizing and implementing good policy that will benefit its student populations in the years and decades to come.