By Tyler Arnold
(The Center Square) – Legislation to establish a school voucher program in West Virginia will head back to the committee process after Republican lawmakers decided more work needed to be done regarding the financial impact of the bill.
After passing the legislation in the House of Delegates, lawmakers reconsidered their vote and opted to send House Bill 2013, sponsored by Del. Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, back to the Finance Committee. Republicans, who have a supermajority in both chambers of the legislature, intend to pass the bill again after this work is completed.
Some of the concerns were that the legislation does not say how long a student must be enrolled in a public school before being eligible for the voucher program and the lack of specificity on what the program’s money must be spent on. Lawmakers are also seeking a fiscal note from the Department of Education.
The House-passed version of the bill differed in scope from the committee-passed version after it was expanded with a floor amendment. In the original text, only about 5,000 would meet the eligibility requirements, but in the expanded text, about 22,000 could potentially be eligible. The original text could have cost up to $23 million to the education system, but the expanded text could have cost up to $101 million annually by 2027.
Under the legislation, parents would be able to apply for vouchers to fund private schooling, homeschooling, and tutoring expenses with taxpayer money. The program would be funded with money that would have otherwise been used for their child’s public school education. Both religious and non-religious schools could participate in the voucher program.
Republican leaders support the bill, arguing that it will increase options for parents and bolster competition. Democrats oppose the legislation because they feel it would pull money out of the education system and fund religious schools that only allow members of their parish or faith to enroll.
House lawmakers passed another piece of school choice legislation, which would expand the use of charter schools in the state. House Bill 2012 passed the House and was introduced into the Senate and sent to the Education Committee.
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.