Last week a commonsense judge in Kanawha County gave a little Hope to the future of our public educational system. Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit ruled that the Hope Scholarship Program is not constitutional. As I have said in the space previously, I believe that program will financially devastate the public educational system of this state if it is allowed to stand.
The Hope Scholarship gives parents the option to use a portion, $4,600, of their per-pupil expenditure from the state School Aid Formula for educational expenses, such as private-school tuition, home tutoring, learning aids and other expenses.
The State Treasurer’s Office who is managing the Hope Scholarship program, has reported that more than 3,146 Hope Scholarship applications have been approved since the May 15 deadline at a potential cost of about $14.5 million. Only students who are enrolled full time in a public school for either the entire previous year or for 45 calendar days are eligible to apply for the scholarship, but the program opens up to all eligible public, private and homeschool students by 2026 and could cost as much as $102.9 million.
How can elected officials even imagine that taking that kind of funding from our schools will not have devastating effects on our children’s education? At least Judge Tabit has come common sense and recognizes that this was not the intent of our founding fathers when they wrote the state constitution.
“In my view, the Legislature has violated its constitutional obligations regarding public education and funding by enacting … the Hope Scholarship,” Tabit said. “In my view, the plaintiffs and the public school system will suffer irreparable harm if the scholarship program and the legislation establishing it are not enjoined from being implemented.”
Of course, State Treasurer Riley Moore has already made statements to correspond with his party’s platform, that he plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. In my opinion this program truly is all about the money. Not just the money being pulled from the educational systems but look where it’s going. The old adage of “follow the money” reveals interesting tid-bits. For the most part it is only the affluent that can afford private schools. Look at the millions and millions of tax dollars that will basically go to private companies, their stockholders and individuals. Some legislators have already admitted that they have private interests in these companies that will run alternative schools. The State Treasurer will benefit financially, now or in the future, for managing the funds. Attorneys will make a fortune in tax funded dollars representing the legislature, treasure and those who promote the idea.
We can only Hope that the Supreme Court is as logical as Judge Tabit was in her decision and interprets the law as our founding fathers intended it… our tax dollars should benefit the majority of our children and grandchildren not just a select few.