West Virginia has recently become the newest of only ten states to offer K-12 students the option of an Education Savings Account, a major step in furthering the education freedom movement in the state.

According to its website, the Hope Scholarship is “an education savings account (ESA) program that will allow parents and families to utilize the state portion of their education funding to tailor an individualized learning experience that works best for them.” 

The ESA acts as a scholarship, allowing students to receive a sum of money to be used for educational expenses outside the public school system. Families who are accepted into the program may use the scholarship for private school tuition and fees, homeschooling materials, tutoring services, after school and summer school programs, educational services and therapies, and other state-approved educational endeavors. 

The scholarship amount awarded to accepted families for the 2022-23 year will be $4,298.60 per pupil.

EdChoice, a non-profit committed to expanding education freedom for children, calls West Virginia’s Hope Scholarship the “most expansive education savings account program in the nation.” It is also the first school choice initiative in the state of West Virginia, marking a historic achievement for parents and students. The program’s expansive eligibility criteria creates a model for other states, with all students in grades 1-12 eligible after attending public schools for 45 days. Students entering kindergarten do not have to attend public schools to be eligible for a Hope Scholarship. So far, over 3,000 West Virginia students have been accepted into the program. Nearly 500 additional applicants are under review. 

School choice efforts such as the Hope Scholarship are especially critical in states like  West Virginia, which has consistently ranked amongst the worst public schools systems in the nation.

West Virginia parents, such as mom of four, Katie Switzer, are excited for their children to benefit from a customized educational experience made available through the Hope Scholarship. Switzer spoke to the Director of IWF’s Education Freedom Center, Ginny Gentles, on the Independent Women’s Network and shared how this freedom will impact her children. Switzer recalls “feeling kind of hopeless” in her search for the right fit for her daughter, who has apraxia of speech and requires specialized learning attention, before learning about the Hope Scholarship. Switzer is an advocate for ESAs and hopes to utilize the scholarship to choose the educational model and therapies that are best for her children.

The Hope Scholarship is a major milestone for the education freedom movement and the future of West Virginia’s youngest citizens. Its innovative and freedom-minded approach to education is one that more states should imitate. Initiatives such as the Hope Scholarship and other Education Savings Accounts across the country put students first by empowering parents to make the best educational choices based on the unique needs and interests of their children.