BRIEF: School Choice in the States – August 2021
Pennsylvania legislators held a press conference highlighting HB 1, the Excellent Education Act for All. This piece of legislation includes an education savings account proposal that is open to any student in the state if they are not also a recipient of the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program or the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. Allowable uses include tuition, tutors, textbooks, curriculum, educational therapies and more. Additionally, this legislation includes a proposal to increase the cap of both the OSTC and EITC tax credit programs by 25 percent in any given fiscal year that 90 percent of the current cap is made available. The next step for this proposal will be a hearing in the House Education Committee.
On August 11, Mountain State Justice (MSJ), a public interest law firm, gave notice to state legislative and executive branch leaders that within 30 days they intend to sue the state to block West Virginia’s Hope Scholarship, the best-in-the-nation education savings account program designed to serve the educational needs of every child in the state. MSJ claims that the ESA is an unconstitutional “special law” because anti-discrimination provisions allegedly do not conform to similar provisions that apply generally in the state, and that the law allegedly violates the constitutional requirement for a “thorough and efficient system of free schools” because the school funding formula was not scrutinized to their satisfaction prior to passage of the legislation. They request a ruling that the Hope Scholarship is unconstitutional, and ask for an injunction blocking the program that includes a school funding formula adequacy study mandate. MSJ reserves the right to alter their complaint when they file their lawsuit.
MSJ is also challenging the state’s charter school law. They claim that it creates independent free school districts that must first be approved by local public school districts and voters. Filing of this proposed lawsuit is pending.