In the first year, 3,010 students have been awarded new Hope Scholarships to pay for educational costs of leaving the public school system.
The scholarship amount varies each school year. For the 2022-23 year, it will be $4,298.60.
So the state will be putting up $12,938,786 for scholarship expenses in year one.
The most number of scholarships per county are 404 in Kanawha, 280 in Berkeley, 171 in Raleigh, 164 in Ohio, 157 in Monongalia, 142 in Jefferson, 140 in Wood, 137 in Logan, 123 in Putnam, 122 in Mercer and 121 in Cabell.
The state’s official student population in public schools was totaled at 252,910 in late 2021. So, roughly, the number of students opting out through Hope Scholarships comes out to a little more than 1 percent.
“Now that the application period has closed for the upcoming school year, I’m excited to announce that we’ve now awarded the Hope Scholarship to more than 3,000 West Virginia students,” Treasurer Riley Moore stated in a news release.
“This milestone demonstrates the strong public response we’ve seen with this program. It shows West Virginians are certainly interested in school choice options for their children.”
The application period for the upcoming school year opened March 1 and concluded May 16. The office received more than 3,600 applications during that period.
Through this past Friday, the office had awarded 3,010 applicants the Hope Scholarship. There are also 469 submitted applications that are either currently in the review process, awaiting review or on hold pending more information. Additionally, there have been 175 applications that have been determined to not meet the statutory criteria for eligibility under the program.
“I’m proud of the tremendous efforts on the part of our Office to successfully launch this program while meeting the strong public demand,” Moore stated. “The fact we were able to launch this program so seamlessly is a testament to the hard work and devotion of our fine public servants.”
The Legislature passed and the governor then signed a bill establishing the Hope Scholarships in 2021, providing money for students leaving the public school system to use for a variety of financial costs. West Virginia’s program also allows students old enough to enter the school system for the first time to be eligible immediately.
The Hope Scholarship allows individual families to use money from the state education system for expenses such as for individual classes or extracurricular activities; tuition and fees at participating schools; tutoring (except not by a member of the student’s family); fees for national standardized tests; fees for after-school or summer programs; educational services and therapies and more.
The conservative publication the Federalist concluded “West Virginia just passed the nation’s broadest school choice law.” That’s because eligibility in other states with similar programs is more narrowly defined.
The scholarship program is being challenged by a lawsuit, contending it violates the state Constitution by pulling money from the West Virginia’s public education system.
Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, today expressed continued concerns about how the scholarship will affect West Virginia’s finances and public education system.
“With the volume of Hope scholarships awarded during this first year of implementation, I’m hoping there are accountability measures in place to ensure these students will be provided the educational opportunities their families seek,” Albert said.
“It is also concerning how the loss of 3000 students will impact county education budgets, ultimately putting valuable programs that benefit students who remain in public schools on the chopping block and diminishing their educational opportunities.”
Kelly Allen, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, also expressed concern about the financial effects of the scholarship.
“In the program’s first year alone, at least $13 million is being diverted from our state’s public education system in the wake of a pandemic when learning resources are needed more than ever for the vast majority of our state’s students who will remain in our public schools.
“The program’s eligibility is far more broad than similar programs in any other state, even before being opened up to all students in 2026. Over time the Hope Scholarship will grow even costlier, diverting hundreds of millions of dollars from our public education system.”