WVa AG calls for the suspension of the decision that blocked the school voucher law

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia attorney general on Tuesday asked a court to stay a ruling overturning a state-sponsored education voucher program.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed his petition with the state’s Intermediate Court of Appeals. He is seeking a stay, pending appeal, of a Kanawha County judge’s July 6 decision regarding the Hope Scholarship Program. A law passed last year would have funneled state money to the program that encouraged families to pull their children out of public schools from K-12.

“The trial court’s decision infringing on parents’ freedom to choose how they raise their children is legally flawed and deeply disappointing, and we are prepared to appeal as soon as the trial court issues its written order confirming his decision almost two weeks ago,” Morrisey said in a statement. “In the meantime, we urge the appeals court to stay the decision so that thousands of West Virginia families can receive the money the legislature has earmarked for the upcoming school year — which begins in a few weeks.”

Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit ruled that the program, which would have been one of the most extensive school choice programs in the nation, violates the state’s constitutional mandate to provide “a comprehensive and effective system free schools”.

Without the reprieve, Morrisey argued that the state and families would “suffer irreparable harm: a validly enacted law will remain silent because the political judgments of the Legislative Assembly have ‘troubled’ a single judge, and students of all state will be deprived of educational opportunities for at least one year.”

Passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice, the law would have allowed families to apply for state funding to support private school tuition, tuition home and a wide range of other expenses. More than 3,000 students had been approved to receive approximately $4,300 each during the program’s inaugural cycle.

Families could not receive the money if their children were already homeschooled or attending a private school. To be eligible, students had to have been enrolled in a West Virginia public school last year or be ready to start kindergarten this upcoming school year.

In January, three parents filed a lawsuit claiming the program was driving students out of public schools and draining funds from the public education system. The lawsuit was backed by the West Virginia Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools.

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