Institute for Justice vows to defend West Virginia’s Hope Scholarship Program

St. Michael Parish School in Wheeling, West Virginia, is one of more than 100 private schools across the state, where the average tuition for elementary schools is $6,054 and the average tuition for high schools is $6,795.

Editor’s note: The public interest law firm Institute for Justice posted this announcement Wednesday on its website in response to a lawsuit that could delay the rollout of West Virginia’s efforts to expand education choice.

CHARLESTON, W. Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) announced that it plans to defend West Virginia’s bold Hope Scholarship Program from a legal challenge filed today by Public Funds Public Schools, an anti-school choice group.

The Hope Scholarship Program is West Virginia’s first school choice program and the most expansive Education Savings Account (ESA) program in the nation. Hope Scholarship accounts will initially be available to West Virginia students who were public school students during the previous year, or who are entering the school system for the first time.

The program provides those students with $4,600 for a variety of education costs, including private school tuition.

“Parents, not the government, should be able to choose the school that will best meet their children’s educational needs,” said IJ Attorney Joshua House. “This program is constitutional, and the Institute for Justice stands ready to defend it.”

The lawsuit against the program retreads commonly rejected arguments against school choice programs. It argues that the program violates the Legislature’s duty to provide “a thorough and efficient system of free schools.” But the Hope Scholarship Program does not use any funds set aside for public schools. They are funded by an entirely separate process.

“All the Hope Scholarship Program does is give every West Virginian the same choice that wealthier families have always enjoyed—the right to choose the best education for their children,” said IJ Attorney Joe Gay.

IJ is the nation’s leading legal defender of educational choice programs, having won numerous lawsuits including three at the U.S. Supreme Court—the most recent of which was the landmark decision Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue in 2020.

IJ is also currently awaiting the outcome in Carson v. Makin, where the Supreme Court is considering whether states can refuse to fund families under a school choice program because of the religious nature of their chosen schools. IJ is currently defending choice programs in North Carolina and Tennessee and challenging the exclusion of religious options from choice programs in New Hampshire and Vermont.