State treasurer clarifies how charter schools can use Hope Scholarship funds for students

By: - October 19, 2023 12:41 pm
Blue and purple lockers line one side of the hallway, with orange and lockers on the other side, with a white and blue striped tile floor down the middle.

West Virginia students won’t be able to use the Hope Scholarship to attend public charter schools because it would be “double dipping” in funds from public schools and the educating savings account program, State Treasurer Riley Moore said. (Lexi Browning | West Virginia Watch)

West Virginia students won’t be able to use the Hope Scholarship to to attend public charter schools full time, according to State Treasurer Riley Moore, who emphasized it would be “double dipping” in funds from public schools and the educating savings account program. 

The Hope Scholarship gives roughly $4,400 per student in taxpayer money that would otherwise go to public schools.

On Wednesday, Moore said in a press release stating that charter schools can’t access Hope Scholarship funds to pay for a full-time student.

“Following recent news coverage about public charter schools and their funding issues, our office has become aware of some confusion around the permitted use of Hope Scholarship funds for public charter school services,” said Moore, who serves as chairman of the Hope Scholarship Board. 

“Children enrolled full-time in a public charter school are ineligible for Hope Scholarship funds,” he said.

But, Moore clarified that charter schools can charge for certain services they may provide to a student using the Hope Scholarship, just like traditional K-12 public schools are permitted to do.

In West Virginia, charter schools are considered public schools.

In response, James Paul, executive director of the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board, clarified that his board never intended to use Hope Scholarship dollars to fund their schools or to “double dip” into both public school and Hope funds.

He simply wanted charter schools to have the same abilities as traditional public schools to utilize Hope funds, he said.

“All public schools — traditional county schools and charter schools — should be able to charge fees when they are providing services to children participating in the Hope Scholarship,” Paul said.

Under state law and Hope Scholarship guidelines, public schools are allowed to charge Hope recipients for those services if they’re not enrolled full-time in their schools. 

According to the release, this stipulation allows the public schools to be made whole, since they do not receive state funds for those students.

“This restriction is what prevents public charter schools from ‘double-dipping,’ or receiving both public funding and Hope funds for these services,” Moore said. 

West Virginia public schools, including charter schools, are funded primarily based on school enrollment. Because of this, charter school advocates said they’ve struggled financially to get schools started because state funding doesn’t kick in until the school year starts and enrollment is solidified.

Earlier this week, Paul asked state lawmakers to consider providing start-up funds for charter schools. He also suggested a lease reimbursement program that would help offset costs for charter schools that want to operate in brick-and-mortar schools. 

A charter school — Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy in Kearneysville — is already operating with a nearly $2 million deficit since opening two years ago.

There are currently five charter schools in West Virginia, including two statewide virtual schools. Two more charter schools are expected to open next year.

State lawmakers have passed a number of bills aimed at bolstering charter schools amid their focus on prompting school choice, which included their approval of the Hope Scholarship in 2021. 

Moore is hoping lawmakers will permit him to expand eligibility for the education savings account program by removing its application deadlines.

The change would require Legislative action, Moore said, to increase program funding so the program could accept students year round.

Financial data from the State Treasurer’s Office showed that last year more than $300,000 in Hope Scholarship funds were used at out-of-state schools.

Correction: This story’s headline was updated to more accurately reflect the press release’s contents. It also was updated to include a response from James Paul, executive director of the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Amelia Ferrell Knisely
Amelia Ferrell Knisely

Amelia is an investigative reporter for West Virginia Watch. Her coverage regularly focuses on poverty, child welfare, social services and government.