July 6, 2022
Mountain State Education
Via the Caucus:
The West Virginia Senate’s Minority Caucus applauds the decision issued by Judge Joanna Tabit in Kanawha County Circuit Court, affirming the caucus’ longstanding position that the HOPE Scholarship program is unconstitutional.
From the beginning, our caucus believed that this program was a dramatic overreach by the supermajority in Charleston. Our state constitution mandates that we must provide a “thorough and efficient system of free schools” for our citizens. We do this by using public funds for public education. We agree with Judge Tabit that siphoning public funds to bolster private organizations, beholden to separate laws and accountability standards, is detrimental to maintaining and providing a thorough and efficient system of free public schools.
Several members offered comments on this decision:
Senator Mike Romano (D-Harrison)
“I stand by what I said last year: I’ve never heard of anybody move to a state because they had great private schools. They move to a state because they have great public education. Employers bring their business here because there are educated students coming out of the public school system that can then receive training and go to work for them. Nobody is going to come to West Virginia because we implement this program. All it would do is show us to be a backwards state that doesn’t care about the modern ideas of nondiscrimination and inclusion and instead continues on with an antiquated and prehistoric notion of who should receive benefits from our tax system and who should not.”
Senator Richard Lindsay (D-Kanawha)
“The HOPE voucher, left unchecked and unregulated, is extreme, unconstitutional and would ultimately lead to consolidation or closure of WV public schools. We warned the supermajority of this in 2021 and attempted to amend in common sense measures. Unfortunately, they would have none of it. Choice is fine, but not at the risk of public education. While I agree with the ruling, I am sad for the families that have been granted the voucher. They are in limbo because of a law that was constitutionally suspect or infirm from the beginning.”
Senator Mike Caputo (D-Marion)
“I think the ‘hope’ here is to destroy public education. We, as elected leaders of the state of West Virginia, hold an obligation to uphold the constitution which requires a public education for our children.”
Minority Leader Senator Stephen Baldwin (D-Greenbrier)
“The program went too far by ignoring the constitution. This ruling is the consequence. Public schools are hurt, families counting on the scholarship are left confused, and most importantly students who need the most help continue to be left out by a legislature more focused on politics than people.”
Editor's Note: We've reached out to Senator Robert Karnes (R-Upshur) for comment and have received no response to date. We'll post any comments if received.