CHARLESTON — One of the first rulings on Tuesday from West Virginia’s new Intermediate Court of Appeals could mean the state’s vast college savings account program remains on hold ahead of the new school year.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Tuesday night that the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) has denied a motion by his office to stay an earlier ruling by the Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge. , Joanna Tabit, who granted a preliminary and permanent injunction against the Hope Scholarship. account program.
“It is disappointing that the intermediate court did not see that the lower court’s injunction would infringe on the fundamental freedom of parents to choose the best education for their children,” Morrisey said in a statement. “Thousands of families who are about to receive scholarships from the law will now be in limbo trying to figure out what will happen to their children’s education.”
Dan Greear, the three-member CIA Chief Justice, recused himself from hearing the case due to the fact that he was previously legal counsel to House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay . He helped provide advice during the passage of the bill that created the Hope Scholarship in 2021 and provided additional advice after a lawsuit challenging the Hope Scholarship was filed in January.
Greenbrier County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dent was appointed by Chief Judge John Hutchison to hear the case, replacing Greear.
The Hope Scholarship allows parents to use $4,600 of the state school assistance formula funding set aside for each student to pay for education programs outside of public schools, such as tuition in private schools, home schooling and tutoring.
The Hope Scholarship was supposed to start this upcoming school year. By the end of May, more than 3,146 Hope Scholarship applications had been granted at a cost of approximately $14.5 million. The program was only available to public school students, but the program opens to all eligible public, private and home school students by 2026 and could cost up to $102.9 million.
The lawsuit was filed against Hanshaw; Senate Speaker Craig Blair, R-Berkeley; Governor Jim Justice; State Treasurer Riley Moore, whose office administers the Hope Scholarship; former Chairman of the State Board of Education, Miller Hall; and State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch.
Days before the case was to be heard in Kanawha County Circuit Court, Hall and Burch filed papers supporting the three West Virginia parents who filed the lawsuit, saying the Hope Scholarship violated the Constitution. of the state by cutting funding for public schools and removing oversight. of the State Board of Education.
Morrisey said his office is considering its next steps, including an appeal to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. But if they refuse to hear the case or move slowly, it could well postpone the Hope Scholarship program until the end of the upcoming school year.
“This is an important law that will benefit hard-working families, and my office will continue to fight to keep this law,” Morrisey said. “We will now proceed and move on to our next legal options – where we believe we should be successful.”