Top Five Education Bills to Watch in the 2023 West Virginia Legislative Session
The 86th Session of the West Virginia Legislature convened on January 11, 2023. At the time of writing this blog post, 1,875 bills have been introduced this session. From these, there are five pieces of legislation that deal with K-12 education I want to highlight. These bills would fundamentally alter and, hopefully, improve education in the mountain state.
House Bill 2619 – Amending Hope Scholarship eligibility
This bill removes the 45-day requirement from the Hope Scholarship law. This would make the program universal beginning in the 2023-2024 school year. If passed, this bill would allow any K-12 student to apply and receive the Hope Scholarship regardless of whether they have previously attended public school. To be eligible, students must still be under 21-years-old, a resident of West Virginia, and actively participating in K-12 education.
As of February 6, 2023, this bill remains referred to the House Education committee.
Senate Bill 506 – Supplementing and amending appropriations to Department of Education, Hope Scholarship
During his 2023 State of the State Address, Governor Jim Justice announced that he wanted to set aside 15 million dollars for the Hope Scholarship. Senate Bill 506, and the companion bill HB 2912, were both introduced on January 27, 2023 and January 23, 2023 respectively as a fulfillment of this goal.
This bill does not impact the current funding for families intending to participate. The Hope Scholarship Law, HB 2013, establishes that the program is funded through the state’s per-pupil allotment that is assigned to all students. This appropriation serves as additional resources for students and families intending to participate in the Hope Scholarship.
As of February 6, 2023, both bills remain referred to their respective chamber’s finance committee.
House Bill 2820 – To provide HOPE Scholarship recipients with the ability to play sports.
This bill amends the West Virginia Code to provide Hope Scholarship recipients, as well as students who are under exemption (n) in a Microschool or Learning Pod, the ability to play sports at their local public school. Currently, West Virginia law provides access to Homeschool students as well as a limited path for Private School students. Hope students who attend a private school that is a WVSSAC member have access. However, Hope Scholars under the Individualized Instruction Program do not currently have a pathway for sports access.
This bill creates the following pathway for public school sports access:
- The student’s average test results are within or above the fourth stanine in all subject areas, and
- the student must enroll in one virtual instructional course.
The current text of the bill does not provide access to private school students (that bill is HB 2495). As of February 6, 2023, this bill remains referred to the House Education committee.
Senate Bill 47 – Creating Charter Schools Stimulus Fund
This bill designates the creation of a Stimulus Fund to assist Charter Schools and Charter School applicants with start up costs. This fund is an appropriation that would require legislative action each year. This appropriation would come from the General Revenue Fund each fiscal year and any funds left over will rollover. The allowable expenses include application funding as well as startup costs. The State Treasurer’s office has indicated that there will be no impact on the operations of the State Treasurer’s office.
As of February 6, 2023, this bill had passed the Senate School Choice committee but remains referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
House Bill 2133 – Homeschool and Private School Tax Credit
This bill would establish a tax-credit, valued at up to $3,000, for participants in a home schooling or private schooling program. This tax-credit is available per-family regardless of how many children a tax-payer has. It is unclear, from the legislation, who exactly is eligible for this program (there is no mention of exemptions, the Hope Scholarship, or micro-schools and learning pods). Further specifics of this program would be available following the State Tax Commissioner submitting legislative rules.
As of February 6, 2023, the bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee.
You can learn more about education bills in the legislature on the West Virginia Legislature’s website.
Andrew Bambrick is the Education Outreach Coordinator for the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy.