For Immediate Release: December 13, 2023
Contact: Kelly Allen, (304)-612-4180
Charleston, WV – The vast majority of school-age children in West Virginia attend and receive their education through the public school system, and West Virginia’s state constitution requires “a thorough and efficient system of free schools.” But a growing Hope Scholarship voucher program is diverting public resources away from the public education system and the nearly 250,000 children served by it, with little oversight and no public accountability measures.
A new analysis from the WVCBP provides the first in-depth look at the harmful impacts of diverting taxpayer dollars away from the public education system to unaccountable private schools. Statewide, public school districts will lose up to $21.6 million in state aid funding for the 2024-25 school year, including funding for approximately 364 staff: 301 professional educators and 63 school service personnel. These costs come even before an eligibility expansion goes into effect that would extend eligibility to families who already send their children to private schools or home school; this expansion is expected to quintuple the annual cost of the program.
The brief also examines the lack of necessary oversight and public reporting on the Hope Scholarship, making it impossible for parents, citizens, and policymakers to assess the impacts of the program on student achievement. Currently the program has no cost or enrollment caps, no income eligibility limits, and requires no public accountability through collection and publication of program data.
“Around the state, school districts are already warning that reductions in state funding due to the Hope Scholarship are resulting in fewer resources for our public school students, including the loss of teacher and school service personnel positions. Every dollar spent on voucher programs comes at the cost of other priorities, including our constitutionally-required public education system,” said Kelly Allen, brief author and executive director of the Center.
“Lawmakers must halt further expansion of the Hope Scholarship and implement public reporting and accountability measures before expending more resources on an unproven and potentially harmful program,” Allen continued.
- West Virginia’s Hope Scholarship program has no cost or enrollment caps, no income limits, and requires no public accountability through collection and publication of program data.
- The Hope Scholarship provides $4,489 per student for the 2023 school year, while the average private school tuition in West Virginia is over $6,200 annually, even before accounting for additional fees that private schools often charge. This means that the amount of the scholarship is not sufficient to allow a student to attend private school unless their family can afford the additional thousands of dollars needed to fund a private education.
- Recent research shows mixed or negative achievement results for students participating in voucher programs. Respective studies in Indiana, Louisiana, and Ohio showed voucher students experienced significant losses in math achievement, large negative losses in reading and math, and worse academic outcomes than their closely matched peers attending public schools.
- Students who utilize the Hope Scholarship must waive their Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) protections and approved Hope Scholarship schools are not required to provide disability accommodations or follow a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).
- West Virginia public education officials are warning lawmakers that insufficient public education funding is driving ongoing crises in hiring and retaining teachers, aides, and bus drivers.
- West Virginia’s per pupil spending on public education is $1,300 below the national average and less than all neighboring states except for Kentucky.
- Statewide, the loss of funding from the public education system to the Hope Scholarship is expected to total up to $21.6 million in the 2024-25 school year, meaning school districts across West Virginia will lose the state aid funding for an estimated 364 staff, including approximately 301 professional educators and 63 school service personnel.
- In total, West Virginia’s 55 school districts will have $392 million less in the 2024-25 school year than they did in the 2023-24 school year due to the expiration of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds combined with state funding losses from students utilizing the Hope Scholarship to leave the public school system for private schools. Nearly half of the expended ESSER funds have been used for personnel costs.
- The Hope Scholarship is expected to quintuple in cost if an automatic eligibility expansion to all children, including those already in private school, goes into effect. While students who leave the public school system divert existing taxpayer funds away from public schools, students who become eligible for the Hope Scholarship despite never having attended public schools will represent substantial new costs to the state budget.
You can read the full brief here.