The state Treasurer’s Office is moving to shore up the new Hope Scholarship program to pay for educational costs of students leaving the public school system.
The Treasurer’s Office, which will administer the new program, is rolling out a website to provide information and guidance about the scholarships. The office is also advertising an open position for a director of educational savings accounts to help administer the program.
“While the Hope Scholarship Program won’t officially begin until the start of the 2022-2023 school year, our Office has already received many inquiries from parents and professional educators hoping to learn more about the program,” Treasurer Riley Moore stated in a news release about the new website.
People may visit www.hopescholarshipwv.com to sign up to receive email alerts when scholarship applications and informational materials become available.
In addition to a form to sign up for email updates, the website includes a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page with basic information about the program, which will be updated regularly.
The Legislature passed and the governor then signed a bill establishing the Hope Scholarships earlier this year.
House Bill 2013 would would establish the Hope Scholarship, allowing students leaving the public school system to use $4,600 — based on the most recent school funding formula numbers — for a variety of education costs.
The bill also allows students old enough to enter the school system for the first time to be eligible immediately.
The program allows individual families to use money from the state education system for expenses such as services provided by public schools, such as for individual classes or extracurricular activities; tuition and fees at participating schools; tutoring (except not by a member of the student’s family); fees for national standardized tests; fees for after-school or summer programs; educational services and therapies and more.
The bill established an oversight board that includes the Treasurer as the chairman and presiding officer. The board is supposed to implement the program and determine whether expenditures qualify.
The board is also tasked with maintaining a list of participating schools, providing parents with a list of ways the scholarship money may be used and outlining responsibilities for parents of recipients. The board also may propose additional legislative rules, including ways to establish a fraud reporting system.
The conservative publication the Federalist concluded “West Virginia just passed the nation’s broadest school choice law.”
Programs in four other states are limited to students with special needs or individualized education programs. A fifth, Nevada, requires students to have attended public school for at least 100 days before applying.
“The recent legislation establishing the Hope Scholarship Program gained national attention for its potential to create the most inclusive school-choice program in the country, and my Office is committed to ensuring that this potential becomes a reality,” Moore stated.
“In the coming months, my office will be developing the internal framework and procedures to administer the program. We want to make sure everything is in place and ready to go once the application period opens next spring.”
State estimates suggest the overall cost could be $23,667,486 when the program begins in 2022.
The program is supposed to be operational no later than July 1, 2022.
Applications are supposed to be available by March 1, 2022.
Moore noted those dates have not yet arrived.
“While we want to make the Hope Scholarship available as soon as possible, the program does not commence until fall of 2022, according to state law,” Moore stated
“In the meantime, the new website will allow my Office to communicate emerging details on the program to interested families and, in turn, families can be confident that they are receiving accurate information directly from the agency in charge of administering the program.”