(The Center Square) – The West Virginia House of Delegates passed two bills to broaden school choice over the last two days, one that establishes a school voucher program and another that expands the current charter school program.
Despite opposition from Democratic leaders, both bills passed easily through the chamber, which now has a Republican supermajority. They now move to the Senate, which also has a Republican supermajority.
House Bill 2013, sponsored by Del. Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, would allow parents to fund private schooling, homeschooling and tutoring expenses with public money. The funding would come from money that would have otherwise been delegated to the public school for their child’s education. It would include religious and non-religious schools.
Republicans also approved a floor amendment to expand the original language in Ellington’s legislation. Under the original text, only about 5,000 students would have been eligible, but under the amended version, about 22,000 could be eligible. In the original language, this could have amounted to about $23 million annually, but under the new language, it could amount to about $101 million annually starting 2027.
The bill passed Thursday.
House Bill 2012, sponsored by Del. Doug Smith, R-Mercer, would expand the number of charter schools that could be approved by the state. Under the current law, the state can only approve three charter schools every three years, but under the proposed legislation, it could approve 10 charter schools every three years.
This bill passed Wednesday.
Republicans argue that these bills would expand competition and provide more options for parents and students. Democrats argue that it would take money out of the public school system and provide funds for religious schools that might only accept students who are members of the parish or the faith to which they belong.