WV AG wants Supreme Court to let school choice program go into effect

(The Center Square) – After a West Virginia school choice scholarship program was halted by the courts, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is taking the fight to the Supreme Court of Appeals.

A lower court issued an injunction to prevent West Virginia from implementing the Hope Scholarship Act and an appeals court upheld that injunction. The attorney general’s motion asks the Supreme Court to pause the injunction, which would allow the state to provide the scholarship benefits to the 3,146 children who were already enrolled in the program.

“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 in a statement Thursday morning. “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 scholarship program sets up education savings accounts, which allow parents to use public money to send their children to private schools or offset costs associated with homeschooling. The money diverts funds that would otherwise have been used to fund the child’s education in the public school system. Parents who were enrolled into the program were approved to receive grants up to $4,600 annually.

A group called Public Funds Public Schools sued the state on behalf of a few parents who send their children to public schools, arguing that the program does not allow the state to sufficiently fund public education because money is diverted away from public schools. The group’s lawyers argued that this violates the state constitution’s Education Clause, which states that the legislature must “provide, by general law, for a thorough and efficient system of free schools.”

“I am urging the state Supreme Court of Appeals to stay the decision so that thousands of West Virginia families can receive the money the Legislature intended for the upcoming school year—which starts in a matter of weeks,” the attorney general said.

Gov. Jim Justice signed the act into law in 2021. The bill received support from Republican leadership, but was opposed by Democratic leadership. Republicans argued that the law would give more choices to parents, but Democrats expressed concerns about how it could affect public school funding.