Vice-Chairman Higginbotham preparing bill to give education money directly to students & families

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – House Education Committee Vice-Chairman Joshua Higginbotham, R-Putnam, today announced he is drafting and plans to introduce a bill that will create Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) for West Virginia students.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and shift to remote learning has highlighted the dire need for many West Virginia families to have additional funding options for their child or children’s education,” Vice-Chairman Higginbotham said. “Education Savings Accounts would empower families to provide their children with the tools they need when in-person classroom education is unavailable.”

Families who opt to enroll their student in the ESA program will receive their student’s portion their education tax dollars to be used only for educational purposes, such as curriculum, teachers, tutors, textbooks, educational technology services and other educational resources. The accounts will be regularly audited.

For those choosing to learn from home or families who cannot attend in-person classes due to the pandemic shutdowns, ESAs would give them much needed educational flexibility and options.

Vice-Chairman Higginbotham decided to draft the bill in the wake of Gov. Jim Justice’s return-to-school roadmap. The bill will be ready for introduction in either an upcoming regular or special session of the Legislature.

“Many West Virginia counties are not permitted to begin schooling in-person, which will have terrible negative long-term consequences on student outcomes and the behavioral and emotional well-being of children in our state,” he said. “Now more than ever, we have to give families the flexibility to ensure their child has access to the education that’s right for them.”

Earlier this week, nine West Virginia counties were prohibited from having in-person classes because they had too many active COVID-19 cases. In some parts of the state, only a handful of positive cases caused the entire school system to shut down. Many students were not even able to log on to their virtual courses from home due to a lack of internet connectivity.

“I want every West Virginian to be safe and healthy – no one should fear for their student’s safety because they lack sufficient educational options,” Higginbotham said. “That’s why we must give every family, regardless of income or ZIP code, the freedom to use their hard-earned tax dollars to provide the educational experience that best suits their child’s unique needs.

“I know many struggling parents who are having to quit their jobs because they cannot find or afford childcare. We must continue to work to safely reopen schools for in-person learning while leveling the playing field by providing a way for families to access the technology, programs, books, and other educational resources by creating Education Savings Accounts.”

Peer-reviewed research indicates that, when states allow parents, students and educators more educational flexibility there are myriad positive effects including educational attainment, parental satisfaction, public school student’s test scores, and fiscal effects.

Tyler Barker
Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com