Beaver v. Moore
Litigation: On November 1, 2021, Hendrickson & Long law firm filed notice of its clients’ intent to file litigation against West Virginia’s Hope Scholarship, the largest education savings account program in the nation. On January 19, 2022, they filed their litigation. Attorneys from Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C., and the Education Law Center in New Jersey, partnered with the Public Funds Public Schools national campaign against school choice (led by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and SPLC Action Fund of Alabama, and the Education Law Center) and Hendrickson & Long law firm of West Virginia to represent three public school families seeking to block other parents from accessing Hope Scholarships for their children. (On August 11, 2021, Mountain State Justice, a nonprofit legal services firm, also served notice to file but there have been no filings from them to date.) Plaintiffs alleged five constitutional violations: 1) that the legislature can only fund a system of public schools, 2) that the state has no compelling interest in funding Hope Scholarships and therefore public school funding cannot be reduced, 3) that no public funds may be used to fund education other than public schools, 4) that allowing an ESA oversight board composed of six statewide public officials and three parents usurps power from the state board of education, and 5) that the ESA impermissibly violates the “special law” provision by treating scholarship students and public school students differently.
Outcomes: On October 6, 2022, the West Virginia Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling against the Hope Scholarship and lifted the lower court’s injunction blocking the program from being implemented. The Hope Scholarship is now an active school choice program in West Virginia. The Court acted swiftly, issuing its ruling just two days after oral arguments. This is a welcome nod to parents who were hoping to access Hope Scholarships for this academic year. The Court will deliver a more extensive written decision, detailing the reasons for upholding Hope, in the next several weeks. (Legal History updated October 7, 2022.)
Why it Matters: Hope Scholarships offer a lifeline to students in West Virginia who, for too long, have been at or near the bottom of educational attainment for K-12 students in the country. Recognizing the critical nature of education in their state, legislators took a bold, welcome move to help ALL students in the states. As a result of West Virginia’s bold move to provide much-needed educational options, other states are now trying to mirror West Virginia’s success.
Effects: Thousands of parents have applied for Hope Scholarships for their children, notwithstanding their knowledge that the scholarships are being challenged in court. The show of support from West Virginia’s parents is proof certain of the need for this opportunity.