Chris Schulz Published

State Board Of Education Hears Hope Scholarship Concerns, Approves School Closures

An empty school hallway is largely white and well-lit, with bright blue doors at the end of the hallway.Adobe Stock/M. Ireland Photography

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, raised concerns at the May meeting of the West Virginia Board of Education that Hope Scholarship funds were being spent in public schools in other states.

The Hope Scholarship allows K-12 students to receive state funds that can be used for tuition at private schools, homeschool curriculum, and other qualifying expenses. 

On Wednesday, Lee again raised the issue, claiming 29 out-of-state schools are receiving West Virginia taxpayer dollars including a public school in Steubenville, Ohio.

“At the end of the fiscal year I’ll have more information about where everything goes, but this is alarming to me,” Lee said. “Hopefully we can keep taxpayer dollars in West Virginia for our kids.” 

Lee said he received the information from the Hope Scholarship Division of the state Treasurer’s office.

In an email to WVPB, the state Treasurer’s office said spending Hope Scholarship funds in out-of-state school systems is permissible and consistent with the “money follows the student” intent behind the Hope Scholarship.

“It should also be noted that West Virginia public schools charge tuition to Hope Scholarship students attending classes or participating in extracurricular activities,” the email said. “Like West Virginia, most other states require public schools to charge tuition to any out-of-state students wishing to access their curriculum or other services.”

On Thursday, Lee told WVPB he understands that the out of state spending is permissible, “but I still question why West Virginia taxpayer dollars are going to fund schools out of state of West Virginia.”

“We believe that parents have the right to homeschool or private school their children,” he said. “But our constitution provides for a thorough and free public education and they choose not to accept that, and I don’t think taxpayer dollars should be used to fund that.”

School Closures

The West Virginia Board of Education also approved the closure of three elementary schools in Kanawha County during its Wednesday meeting. 

Marmet Elementary School, Grandview Elementary School and George C. Weimer Elementary School were all approved for closure at the end of the 2023-2024 school year and will be consolidated with existing local elementary schools.

These are the first school closures to be approved by the state board since Senate Bill 51 went into effect on June 5. The new law requires impact statements including transportation time of the affected students be written in certain instances of school closing or consolidation.

The application for the closure of all three schools carried the following impact statement:

The consolidation of these schools will enable Kanawha County Schools to operate their schools more efficiently. 

The Kanawha County Board of Education voted to approve the closures in May, before the law went into effect.