West Virginia is ground zero in battle for broad educational savings accounts in America

The mission and vision of Heritage Christian School in Bridgeport, West Virginia, is to provide a God-permeated, Christ-centered, high-quality education to prepare students spiritually, scholastically and relationally for a life of biblical moral standards, responsible leadership, and service to others. Heritage Christian is one of 119 private schools in the state serving nearly 14,000 students.

Editor’s note: This article appeared last week on West Virginia’s dailytorch.com

One of the broadest educational savings accounts in the nation is set to go into effect Aug. 15 in West Virginia. The program stipulates $4,600 to West Virginia students that leave the public school system for either private schools or homeschooling. Any unused funds in the account can be rolled over to the next school year or used for postsecondary expenses.

But to qualify for the scholarship, a student must first have been enrolled in a West Virginia public school. Regarding a student currently in a private school and being homeschooled the “student could become eligible by enrolling full time and attending a public elementary or secondary school program in this state for at least 45 calendar days at the time of application.”

Meaning, unless they immediately enroll in public school, the roughly 14,000 West Virginia students who are enrolled in private school or the more than 30,000 who are homeschooling will be ineligible for the scholarships. The exact number is not quite clear as the reporting requirements for homeschooling in West Virginia has recently changed.

That said, all students would become eligible for the Hope Scholarship in 2026 if less than 5% of students statewide are enrolled in the program in 2024.

While the West Virginia Hope Scholarship is a major step in the right direction, and an excellent initiative for parents skeptical of their current student’s public school, excluding the families who have already chosen alternative education is not an ideal launch for a program. It also is unfortunate for parents of older children who will have little time ahead to use the money as opposed to a new kindergartner.

The state should open the program to all students immediately, but with its expected cost, there may be a lack of funding and an unwillingness to reallocate other funding. This is unfortunate.

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BY Special to NextSteps