West Virginia governor signs new open enrollment policy into law

Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill on Saturday to allow open enrollment in West Virginia’s public schools.

HB 2596 enables students to leave a public school that doesn’t meet their needs and attend a better one, regardless of where they live. The bill also requires county boards to establish open enrollment policies which must exclude charging tuition or requiring the approval of a county from which a student transfers.

School choice advocates celebrated the law as another step toward education freedom and prioritizing students.

“A family’s income or zip code shouldn’t matter when it comes to their child’s education,” said Craig Hulse, executive director of yes. every kid. “Every kid deserves access to the best education possible – and for too long, residential assignment has prevented this.”

West Virginia also launched an education savings account (ESA) program last year, giving approved parents access to their student’s state funding. The money can be used for public or private education expenses, including tuition, tutoring, therapy, and transportation.

At least 10 states currently have ESA programs. Open enrollment policies also vary state to state, and although they receive fewer headlines than ESA programs, school choice supporters are taking notice.

“West Virginia’s open enrollment legislation prevents districts from charging tuition for students to access public schools outside of their neighborhood and establishes a system of checks and balances, ensuring families have the freedom to make decisions about their child’s education,” explained Hulse.  

“This bill guarantees every child will have access to the public school that fits them best.”