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Campbell: Hope scholarship amendment won’t affect Mon Schools

The first reading of Policy 2371 proceeded without fanfare during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Monongalia County Board of Education.

That’s because it was a formality.

Policy 2371 will be an on-the-record rehash of all the statewide particulars related to the Hope Scholarship, and its funding of alternate forms of education for families that might not have the opportunity otherwise.

The scholarship takes state aid dollars and funnels them into the households of families qualifying on income.

State aid right now comes to $4,725.07, which is the Charleston allotment for each student enrolled in a public school across West Virginia’s 55 counties.

Parents in those qualifying households now have the choice to use those dollars for private school, a charter school or home schooling.

Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said he didn’t begrudge the scholarship — saying it was “one more option” for families.

One more option just got one more option Wednesday during the state Legislative session, as the House Education Committee advanced a bill that broadening the eligibility of the scholarship even more.

The amending House Bill 2619 gives non-public K-12 students who are already home-schooled or in private school, the same opportunities to explore educational opportunities elsewhere.

“That’s not going to have any effect on us,” Campbell said of the new version.

Looking back, Tuesday’s formality was hard-fought. The Hope Scholarship’s passage reflects the ever-changing landscape of public K-12 education in the Mountain State.

The scholarship already came packed with a contentious baggage, which it carried all the way to West Virginia’s highest court.

That was after it was tossed in an earlier ruling in a lower court.

A total of 3,000 families had already qualified for the outlay when Kanawha County Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit shut it down last summer — saying the scholarship violated the state’s Constitutional mandate to provide “thorough and efficient system of free schools” for all.

For proponents of the scholarship, “choice” has long been the watchword — but opponents countered by saying no one has a choice, if public dollars are going to private education, no matter what the taxpayers say.

Students who opt out of public school, in effect, take those state aid dollars with them. Morgantown is now home to the West Virginia Academy, the state’s first brick-and-mortar charter school, which opened its doors this past August.

While Mon Schools fares fiscally well compared to some of its neighbors in the Mountain State, the district was still bracing for the loss of $2 million from its coffers over the summer, as some 350 students across the county were readying to enroll in the new school.

The district has a current operating budget of $145 million, but $2 million is still $2 million, Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said then.

“It’s not like a fund we’re sitting on,” he said. “Every dollar has been spent.”

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