Building Faith – Developing Minds

School Choice in West Virginia

The primary responsibility in the rearing and education of children is their parents. Parents are able to partner and delegate some of the tasks along the way in forms of homeschool groups and schools. Local churches also have a responsibility to “Equip the Saints” (Ephesians 4:11ff). We believe education works best when the home the church and the school are working together with the same values and worldview. That’s why we support the freedom of parents in the education of their children.

In 2019 ECS is supporting and participating in the promotion of school choice in West Virginia along with our partner organizations around the state which include the with the WVCEA and ACSIWV as well as the Cardinal Institute.

You may wonder how many Christian Schools are in West Virginia and what they are like. Here are some details

WVCEA Facts 2018

WV Christian Schools 2018

Below is some various information about school choice and the proposal of Educational Savings Accounts in West Virginia.
  1. Parents should be empowered to choose what’s best for their children.
    • When parents are given the choice to be able to be actively engaged in their child’s education, children win.
    • Today parents don’t have the options they need to make sure their children are having their unique needs met.
    • ESAs put parents in the driver’s seat, letting them choose exactly what kind of education their children receive.
  2. Parents need to be given a flexible approach to education
    • For the first time ever, parents can control their child’s share of education funding.
    • That funding can be spent on a wide variety of educational services and products, everything from educational therapies and tutoring, to home school curriculum and private school tuition.
    • Schools continue to use a one-size-fits-all approach, treating gifted and struggling students alike. Every parent knows all children are unique.
    • Gives child the opportunity to reach their full potential.
    • We can all agree that American schools are not preparing children for the jobs of tomorrow.
    • ESAs respect the individuality of each child and allow him/her to reach their full potential.

What is an education savings account (ESA)? An ESA is like a debit card for education. It enables you to spend your child’s education funding, instead of a government bureaucrat. Through an ESA, the state deposits 75 percent of the funds that would have been spent on a child in the public school into a parent-directed account. Parents can then tailor their child’s education to be as unique as they are.

How do parents access the funds? Funds are deposited quarterly on a restricted-use debit card that the parent can use on any qualified education-related product, service, or provider.

What can they spend the money on? Parents can spend funds on private school tuition, online learning, textbooks, curricula, individual public school courses, educational therapies, and a host of other education-related services and products.

Can a parent get cash out of their debit card? No. A parent can only use the debit card on allowable expense and cannot receive cash back.

Who decides what is an allowable expense? Providers and services and products are included on a white list maintained by the state. Education providers can ask to be on the white list, or parents can ask to have a service or product to be an allowable expense. For example, Rosetta Stone is now an allowable purchase in Arizona after it was added, upon parent request, to the white list. Requests are sent to the state treasurer.

How can fraud be prevented? Funds are deposited into the parent-controlled accounts quarterly, and only after parents have submitted receipts for the preceding quarter’s spending.

Are there repercussions for committing fraud? In the event there is a misuse of funds, the subsequent quarter’s allocation can be used to rectify the spending error. In the event of evidence of egregious misuse of funds, the state can audit accounts.

Does this take money from the public school system? ESAs use currently allocated education funds and simply allows those funds to follow the child to education options of choice. The public school system retains the funding for fixed overhead costs. If an ESA program is introduced in a state, the public schools retain their currently allocated funds for an entire year, and then have an opportunity to adjust to a lower student count. The fact is that there are both fixed and variable expenditures. The schools focus on fixed costs when students leave and the variable costs when more students enroll, but they can’t have it both ways. All costs are variable in the long run and schools already experience fluctuations in enrollment all the time. They will manage, as they have in the two dozen states with private school choice laws already.

How are children who remain in public school affected? It allows for that public school to be more responsive to students who choose to remain in a given school. There is no evidence that any educational choice law has had a negative impact on public schools. In fact, 22 out of 23 studies from respected researchers at Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern University, the University of Arkansas, and more have found small but statistically significant positive impact on the performance of public school students after the introduction of school choice laws. One study found no measurable difference. None found any harm.

Less than 1% of students are participating in the ESA programs in AZ and FL. The annual fluctuation in enrollment in public schools varies more than that.

What about the impact on teachers? ESAs enable teachers to be more innovative and flexible with how they educate children and provide them the opportunity to expand their impact to students across the state.  As an added benefit, teachers would have the opportunity to earn extra money by tutoring, teaching online courses, and facilitating other extracurricular options.