By Joyce Bibey
WEST VIRGINIA—Earlier this year the WV Legislature passed House Bill 2013, now known as the Hope Scholarship to provide funds for families enrolling in private school, alternative instruction programs, or home schools beginning in the Fall of 2022. This education savings account is set up by the state and managed through the West Virginia Treasure Riley Moore’s office.
As with any scholarship, there are qualifiers and stipulations.
Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Mary Ann Deschaine, Ed.S., has been trying to learn everything she can about how the state-run program will work.
“This is an exciting opportunity for all children and families in the state of West Virginia, who are seeking to enter into a private or home school situation,” Deschaine said. “We are learning about the Hope Scholarship program right alongside everyone else.”
What do the schools know about the program? The same information that is available online through the treasurer’s office: https://hopescholarshipwv.com.
Specifically, students are eligible for the program if they are:
• A resident of West Virginia
• Entering kindergarten for the first time in the Fall of 2022
• Current K-11 student enrolled full time (or at least 45 days during the time of application) in a public elementary or secondary school in West Virginia in 2021-2022
• Current private and home school students are not eligible for the program at this time
Moore has shared with Deschaine and noted on the FAQs on the scholarship’s website that current non-public school students will eventually be eligible for the program, “If the participation rate of the combined number of students in the Hope Scholarship Program and students eligible who have applied to participate in the Hope Scholarship program in 2024 is less than five percent of net public school enrollment adjusted for state aid purposes for the previous school year, then, effective July 1, 2026, all students will be eligible to participate in the Hope Scholarship Program” the website details.
“The stipulation for current private school and home school families fluctuates as it is presented currently, and therefore, we cannot be exact on predicting when and how much will be made available to our current families,” Deschaine said. “As the program unfolds, my office will be following along closely, as will our principals, pastors, and advisory boards.”
According to the West Virginia Hope Scholarship website, under the current school aid formula, each eligible student would receive $4,600 annually that can be used toward private school, alternative instruction programs, or home school.
Deschaine emphasized this scholarship is not run, managed, or determined by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston or the Department of Catholic Schools in the Diocese.
The state stipulates that money in the Hope Scholarship education savings account will be administered through a third party. The treasurer’s office reports that each family awarded would have access to an account for each eligible student in their household. All purchases would be pre-approved by the state. The funds awarded can only be spent on education expenses such as tuition and fees, extracurriculars, tutoring, materials, supplies, textbooks, transportation, etc.
The website notes that there is not a date or deadline set yet for when families can apply for the Hope Scholarship. It does define that applications will be available no later than March 1, 2022, and that Moore’s office is to advertise the availability.
While the Catholic schools of West Virginia continue to learn about the Hope Scholarship, current public school and young families are welcome to learn if Catholic schools are the right fit for their children.
All 24 Catholic schools in the state are preparing for Catholic Schools Week set for Jan. 29 through Feb. 5, many are planning to host open houses and schedule student shadow days for children and families to see what makes West Virginia Catholic schools exceptional, Deschaine said.
“Our PK-12 focus is to encourage individual and critical thinking; deepen faith; build self-esteem; and develop a sound moral foundation rooted in the gospel,” Deschaine said. “We are unapologetically Catholic with a mission focused on providing our students with a strong foundation for the future – spiritually, academically, emotionally, and socially – all in a Christ-centered environment. We challenge our students to be the best version of themselves – to be as God sees and wants them to be.”
West Virginia Catholic schools welcome families to learn more about Catholic education. The common application and re-enrollment period for West Virginia Catholic schools begins in February.
For information on the Catholic Schools of West Virginia go to: https://wvcatholicschools.org.