West Virginia Legislature passes education savings account bill

Published: Mar. 18, 2021 at 11:34 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - According to West Virginia House of Delegates Education Committee Chair Joe Ellington (R-Mercer), it’s all about opportunity.

“Our ultimate goal (is) we want to improve the opportunity for the student,” Ellington said.

The opportunity is coming in the form of the Hope Scholarship Fund, an educational savings account that allows families to access up to $4,600 of state funds to educate their child at home or in a private school, among other options.

State leaders are calling this program the most expansive of its kind in the nation. Parents would receive the funding in the form of a voucher and it would need to be spent with state-approved vendors.

“There are different scenarios on why that might be better and if a child isn’t doing well in a certain situation, it gives them the opportunity to try something different.”

While some see it as an opportunity, others say it might not come as advertised.

“Well it’s just another one of these things that doesn’t match the marketing,” said West Virginia Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin (D-Greenbrier). “I mean, the marketing sounds great, like ‘we’re going to help students falling through the cracks’ and ‘this is another choice and this is an opportunity for them and their families.’ The problem with this particular bill is I don’t think it fills those particular cracks.”

Teachers say they fear the program could come at the expense of public schools’ budgets.

“We don’t know how this is going to improve public education in West Virginia,” said AFT West Virginia President Fred Albert. “We think that the majority of students still choose public education and public schools, which we need to get behind and fully fund.”

The bill passed the House of Delegates last week and the Senate this week and will now go to Gov. Jim Justice’s desk for his signature.

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