School choice program also is first for the Mountain State
INDIANAPOLIS—EdChoice, a national nonprofit organization that promotes state-based educational choice programs, congratulates the state of West Virginia on the enactment of its first-ever school choice program and the nation’s most expansive education savings account policy.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed House Bill 2013 into law over the weekend. The program will be operational no later than July 1, 2022
“This is an incredible accomplishment for the families of West Virginia, who will now have access to educational options they might never have been able to access before. So many groups came together to make this possible,” said EdChoice President and CEO Robert Enlow. “As we reflect on how drastically K-12 education has changed during the pandemic, we look to education savings accounts as a way to empower families with the kinds of choices they need moving forward.”
ESAs are the most popular and flexible form of school choice; more than 20 states introduced ESA bills this legislative session. EdChoice has been actively working with state partners in West Virginia for the past six years to expand educational opportunities to K-12 students in the state.
“West Virginia made its way from the back of the pack in terms of education freedom to the gold standard in the country in five short years. That is a testament to the power of partnership,” said Garrett Ballengee, executive director of the Cardinal Institute, a West Virginia think tank that championed the ESA legislation.
The new ESA program would provide parents with 100 percent of the prior year’s state average per-pupil funding to spend on educational expenses like school tuition, tutoring and summer education.
Every kindergartener in the state would be eligible for the ESA. All children—grades 1-12—would be eligible for the program with a prior public enrollment requirement of 45 days, or full-time enrollment in a public elementary or secondary school program in West Virginia for an entire instructional term the previous year.
The ESA could expand to include even more students in a few years. If less than 5 percent of the public school population is in the program on July 1, 2024, then—in 2026—the program eligibility will expand to all children who are currently in public school or eligible to attend a kindergarten, public elementary or secondary school program in West Virginia.