CHARLESTON, W. Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) moved to intervene on behalf of Morgantown, West Virginia, parent Katie Switzer and Albright, West Virginia, parent Jennifer Compton and to defend the state’s bold new Hope Scholarship Program from a constitutional challenge filed Wednesday. Both parents want to use the Hope Scholarship Program to help obtain the education that will best meet the needs of their children. IJ is the nation’s leading advocate for school choice, having won 24 school choice litigation fights, 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.
Public Funds Public Schools, an anti-school choice organization, challenged the program for violating the Legislature’s duty to provide “a thorough and efficient system of free schools.” The lawsuit ignores the fact that the Hope Scholarship Program does not use any funds set aside for public schools, and is funded by an entirely separate process.
“Parents like Katie and Jennifer are fighting to defend the Hope Scholarship Program because they want an education that meets their families’ needs,” said IJ Attorney Joshua House. “This lawsuit against the program was not filed with the interests of West Virginia families in mind.”
Two of Katie Switzer’s children can start kindergarten next year, and she believes both would benefit from an education outside of the local public school. One of her children has a speech disorder that Katie believes would benefit from the individualized attention that a private school could provide, and Katie also wants to use the Hope Scholarship Account to offset the expense for speech therapy.
“This Hope Scholarship could change my daughter’s life. We could afford to bring her to an environment where she can learn at her own pace and use the scholarship for the type of speech disability she has.” Katie said. “It’s not just that one school might be better than the other. It’s that one school might be better for that family than the other school.”
Until this year, West Virginia was among a minority of states without an educational choice program. Then, it enacted one of the nation’s very best: The Hope Scholarship Program, enacted last March, will give thousands of families in West Virginia greater educational choice beginning in the 2022-23 school year. West Virginia families may use a student’s Hope Scholarship Account for private school tuition, therapies and a wide variety of other education expenses.
“Every family should be able to guide the education of their children, regardless of income,” said IJ Attorney Joe Gay. “West Virginia families should be able to choose the school that best fits the needs of their children.”
Jennifer Compton, whom IJ is also representing in its defense of the Hope Scholarship Program, wants to send her son to a school other than her local public school. He struggles with sensory sensitivity, and she believes he would thrive in an environment with smaller class sizes and more individual attention to his sensory sensitivity.
“The public school system may work for a lot of people, but it’s not working for my son. All I want to do is decide the type of education I want him to receive,” said Jennifer.
IJ is the nation’s leading legal defender of educational choice programs, having won numerous lawsuits, including three at the U.S. Supreme Court. IJ is currently defending choice programs in North Carolina and Tennessee and currently challenging the exclusion of religious options from choice programs in Maine at the U.S. Supreme Court.