After Year of Legislative Victories, Fight Continues in Court for Ed Choice in West Virginia and Ohio 

Joe Gay
Joe Gay  ·  April 1, 2022

As parents learned firsthand the value of schools that answer directly to families, and frustration with public schools reached a fever pitch, 2021 became the Year of Educational Choice: 18 states enacted seven new educational choice programs and expanded 21 existing programs. And no two states are better examples of this than Ohio and West Virginia. 

IJ and educational choice in Ohio go way back: Two decades ago, IJ made history successfully defending Ohio’s first educational choice program, the Cleveland Scholarship Program, before the U.S. Supreme Court. Ohio later enacted its EdChoice Scholarship Program, which awards scholarships to students assigned to underperforming schools and whose families meet certain income designations. And in 2021, Ohio expanded its EdChoice Program by eliminating caps on the number of scholarships, raising scholarship amounts, and broadening eligibility.  

Unlike Ohio, West Virginia was among the minority of states in 2021 with no existing educational choice programs. But following tireless efforts by IJ and our allies, West Virginia enacted the historic Hope Scholarship Program, the broadest educational savings account program in the country. All current public school students and all students entering kindergarten are eligible to receive Hope Scholarships to use toward educational expenses, including private school tuition, occupational therapies, and homeschooling costs. 

But legislative victories in 2021 have meant lawsuits in 2022. Days after the new year began, a collection of public school districts, a special interest group, and an Ohio family sued Ohio in state court seeking to dismantle the EdChoice Program. Two weeks later, lawyers from an anti-educational choice group filed a lawsuit in state court against West Virginia officials, seeking to halt the Hope Scholarship Program from even starting. 

But as always, IJ was ready to defend these crucial programs. Within days of each lawsuit, IJ intervened to defend the programs on behalf of parents who want to use these scholarships for their children. By intervening, IJ provides the courts with the unique perspectives of real families who need these programs to choose the education that best meets their individual needs, as well as IJ’s expertise as the nation’s leading courtroom advocate for choice. 

These programs provide a much-needed lifeline to IJ’s clients. In West Virginia, for example, Katie Switzer wants to use Hope Scholarships for her two eldest children, one of whom has a speech disorder that Katie believes would benefit from therapies and resources she can purchase through the program. And in Ohio, Brian Ellis relies on EdChoice Scholarships for his three school-age children, two of whom have disabilities that require special attention and all of whom would otherwise be assigned to low-performing public schools. 

Both Katie and Brian need their scholarships to afford to do what wealthier families do all the time: choose the education that works best for their families. And IJ looks forward to fighting on their behalf to ensure that educational choice remains an option for families across Ohio and West Virginia.

Joe Gay is an IJ attorney.


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