CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia has ruled in a three-to-two vote that the is constitutional, according to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Morrisey announced this afternoon, Oct. 6, 2022, that the court reversed the decision handed down by a Kanawha County Circuit Court judge that blocked the Hope Scholarship.
West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore says the Hope Scholarship program will be up and running again “effective immediately.”
“I want to thank the WV Supreme Court for ruling that the Hope Scholarship is constitutional!” Moore said. “This is a win for West Virginia families. Effective immediately, this program is back up and running to provide better educational outcomes for our state’s students.”
The Hope Scholarship voucher program was signed into law by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice in 2021 with plans for it to go into effect for the 2022-2023 school year. More than 3,000 students have already been awarded the scholarship which would be used for education purposes this fall. Each student receives $4,300 to go toward private or homeschooled education.
However, in July, Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit blocked the state from launching the Hope Scholarship voucher program saying it would ultimately take public funds and use it for private education expenses.
A fiscal note produced in the legislature when the bill first passed estimated that the full cost for the program could be as much as $100 million aside from public education.
Following Tabit’s ruling, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed for a stay and later an injunction to her ruling. He claims the ruling is “undermining parents’ freedom to choose” regarding their children’s education.
“The decision by a Kanawha Circuit Court judge is flawed in many ways and only does one thing: render harm to the thousands of families set to receive funds from the Act,” Morrisey said. “This is about the rights of those parents to choose the best possible education for their children, and the Act is a vehicle to make that happen.”
In August 2022, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia announced they would expedite an appeal hearing over whether a judge’s ruling to block the Hope Scholarship program should stand. Because of this case being expedited, Morrisey’s request for the stay was refused.
The petitioners in the case were required to file petitioner’s briefs and a joint appendix by no later than Sept. 6, 2022, in which the respondents were required to file respondent’s briefs by no later than Sept. 23, 2022.
More than 3,000 students in West Virginia qualified for Hope Scholarships this school year but because of the court fight, none of that money has been distributed.