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Goldwater Stands Up for West Virginia Families

September 6, 2022

The Goldwater Institute today filed a brief in West Virginia’s highest court urging it to uphold the constitutionality of that state’s Hope Scholarship Program—an innovative new program designed to give families the freedom to choose the best educational options for their needs. Modeled on Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program, which the Goldwater Institute created more than a decade ago, West Virginia’s Hope Scholarship Program allows parents the option to send their children to schools better suited to their children’s unique circumstances, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all mechanism most states use.

Unfortunately, a trial judge in Charleston declared the Hope program unconstitutional in July, on the theory that because the state Constitution requires the legislature to fund a public school system, lawmakers could not create additions or alternatives to the existing public schools. The judge also said that if parents took advantage of the Hope program, the existing public schools would lose funding—thereby depriving West Virginia students of their right to a public education.

But as we explain in our brief, Arizona’s program has been in place for more than ten years, and it has not resulted in decreased funding for the state’s students. On the contrary, per-pupil funding has increased in public schools as well as private schools in the years that Arizona’s school-choice program has been in place. And test scores, too, have improved in both public and private schools during that time. It turns out freedom of choice benefits everybody.

In our brief, we explain how Arizona’s experience doesn’t support the trial judge’s conclusions—and we show why the Hope Scholarship Program is well within the state legislature’s authority. The fact that lawmakers are required to provide a public system doesn’t mean they’re not allowed to offer alternatives, as well.

You can learn more about this case and our other work supporting educational freedom here.

Timothy Sandefur is the Vice President for Legal Affairs at the Goldwater Institute.



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