West Virginia parents who are sending their children to private schools or homeschooling them because of the COVID-19 pandemic may be able to get federal COVID-19 relief funding to offset those costs, pending a decision by Gov. Jim Justice.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order that allows states to direct relief money allocated to Community Service Block Grants for emergency learning scholarships, which would provide funding for parents who opted for alternative schooling amid the pandemic.
Justice’s office declined to comment on whether he is considering using the money for this purpose since they are awaiting federal guidance.
Availability of in-person public education throughout the state has been shaky and unreliable for much of the pandemic. West Virginia uses a color-coded system to determine to what extent schools can open, based on a county’s COVID-19 numbers. Although the state has moved to a more consistent statewide approach for reopening, with some exceptions, some parents already have opted into alternative education options for the school year.
Using public money for these purposes generally has garnered support from free-market advocates and opposition from teachers unions.
Jessica Dobrinsky, a policy development associate at the free-market Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy, told The Center Square that school boards’ decisions across the country have deprived students of in-person learning and said Trump’s executive order moves the country in the right direction.
“One hundred sixteen private schools in the nation have been forced to close their doors, and 57% of private schools are losing students due to household income reductions and obligatory online instruction,” Dobrinsky said. “President Trump’s executive order seeks to reverse the damage done across the nation to our most vulnerable population. However, it serves as only a symbol for the greater discussion in educational choice. The executive order creates no true solution and, instead, would require a year of growing regulatory bureaucracy before coagulating.”
The federal block grant program, which has $775 million allocated to it for fiscal year 2021, is used for a variety of programs, including housing, health care and employment programs. Trump’s executive order does not add additional funding to the program, but it lets states direct part of its funding to these scholarships.
The West Virginia Education Association did not respond to a request for comment from The Center Square.
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.