West Virginia Sets New School Choice Standard | Beaufort County Now | Jayme Metzgar writes for the Federalist about one state’s major turnaround on parental school choice.

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Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the John Locke Foundation. The author of this post is Mitch Kokai.

    Jayme Metzgar writes for the Federalist about one state's major turnaround on parental school choice.

  • Last week, with very little noise or fanfare, the West Virginia legislature passed the most expansive Education Savings Account program in America. While ESAs in most states are only open to a small percentage of children, the new West Virginia Hope Scholarship will be available to 90 percent of schoolchildren in the state. Every child currently enrolled in public school is eligible, plus those newly aging in.
  • "It's a game-changer," says Garrett Ballengee of the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy, a conservative think tank and proponent of the bill. "If you add up every single ESA utilizer in the rest of the country, there are only about 20,000 of them. The Hope Scholarship will automatically open it up to ten times that many children in West Virginia alone."
  • Applicants for the Hope Scholarship will receive 100 percent of their state education dollars — $4,600 annually — in lieu of public schooling. (County and federal funds will remain in the system.) The scholarship is usable for private school tuition, homeschool curriculum, or other education expenses. Gov. Jim Justice, a vocal opponent of ESAs as recently as 2019, has signaled he's likely to sign.
  • For a state that couldn't pass a far more modest measure just two years ago, it's a breathtaking turnaround. ...
  • ... State Sen. Patricia Rucker, the Republican chair of the Senate Education Committee and chief architect of the ESA effort, has a few theories about what made the difference. First, she believes the majority of West Virginians never opposed school choice in the first place; they were simply afraid to say so. ...
  • ... The COVID-19 lockdowns undoubtedly played a major role in further widening the rift between teachers' unions and the people. As parents suddenly faced a public school system that refused to open its doors, it became harder to understand why that system should retain exclusive control over tax dollars meant to educate children.

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