State Treasurer Riley Moore today announced the first-ever Hope Scholarship payments have been made to student accounts and can now be used to pay for authorized educational services.
“This is a great day for school choice in West Virginia,” said Treasurer Moore, who also chairs the Hope Scholarship Board. “After a tumultuous year of uncertainties and obstacles, families are finally able to put the Hope Scholarship to work for their children.”
The Hope Scholarship Program initially launched for applications last March and was scheduled to issue its first payments in August. However, a legal injunction handed down last July by a Kanawha County Circuit Court judge halted all activity with the program.
That decision left the nearly 3,000 families who had been awarded the scholarship in a state of limbo over how to educate their children in the current academic year.
The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia however lifted that injunction last October, declaring in a later opinion the Kanawha court had “abused its discretion” and ruling the program was indeed constitutional. The Hope Scholarship Board then met to pass emergency rules that would ensure families could then receive the appropriate amount of funds to which they were entitled for the full academic year.
“We have done our best to ensure all families enrolled in the program are made whole and receive the funds they deserve,” Treasurer Moore said.
Following the injunction, some families opted to keep their children in public school for a time instead of enrolling them in nonpublic options. Others moved forward with enrolling their students in nonpublic education options in hopes the scholarship funding would be restored.
The Hope Scholarship Board staff sent questionnaires to families enrolled in the program last fall to update whether they pursued public or nonpublic education options during the injunction period. Families that continued with nonpublic options would receive funding for the full academic year, while those that pursued public school options during all or part of the injunction semester would be awarded a prorated amount.
Today, 1,610 students received the full-year scholarship amount of $4,298.60. An additional 187 students received prorated payments of varying amounts, depending on when the student transitioned from a public to nonpublic education environment. The funds are available for use in the program’s Education Market Assistant online portal.
There are an additional 466 student accounts that are still pending payments in order to resolve data differences mostly due to inconsistent dates from when parents said their child moved to a nonpublic school versus the dates registered in local school boards’ West Virginia Education Information System (WVEIS) data. Staff is working to manually reconcile those differences on a case-by-case basis.
An additional 619 accounts did not have payments issued because the families have not yet responded to the questionnaires updating their child’s status following the injunction period. It is believed the vast majority of those instances are families that opted to keep their children enrolled in public school for the year due to the injunction.
If a family still intended to use their child’s awarded Hope Scholarship for the current academic year and did not receive a payment or did not respond to their updated status survey, they are encouraged to email Hope Scholarship staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. Families are asked to include their child’s WVEIS ID number so staff can begin processing that account.
For parents who will want to request reimbursements for qualifying education expenses incurred during the injunction period, that reimbursement module is expected to launch in the Education Market Assistant portal the week of Jan. 23.
“I know the injunction and the uncertainty it caused created a tremendous hardship on families, and we appreciate the patience they have displayed as we continue to work through the litany of issues it produced,” Treasurer Moore said. “Now that the state Supreme Court has fully upheld this program, we look forward to helping students and their families take full advantage of this program and its benefits for the remainder of this academic year and the school year to come.”
The application period to use the Hope Scholarship for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year will open for new applicants on March 1. Current Hope Scholarship recipients will be able to begin applying to renew their scholarship on Feb. 15.