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Kanawha Judge Halts 5 Recently Approved Charter Schools In W.Va.

Gavel on laptop.
Levent Konuk
/
istockphoto.com

A judge in Kanawha County has issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily halts the creation of five charter schools in West Virginia.

Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey, in her ruling, cited the West Virginia Constitution, which asserts that “no independent free school district or organization shall hereafter be created,” unless the school districts or voters consent to its creation.

Public charter schools in West Virginia are approved by the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board, which was created by the state Legislature last year and is made up of members who are appointed by the governor.

Previously, the state’s charter law put local county school boards in charge of whether a charter would be approved in a district. County school board members are voted into their positions by local voters.

Bailey said her ruling is not about whether there ought to be charter schools in West Virginia, but rather who approves them.

“This ruling is not about whether our legislature has the authority to enact legislation providing for charter schools. That’s not what this is about. This is in an enactment, however, that is contrary to the constitution of the state,” Bailey said.

Defendants asked for a stay on the court’s verdict so that they could seek an immediate appeal from the West Virginia Supreme Court. Bailey denied the stay.

“I don't see the likelihood of success being in favor of the defendants,” Bailey said of the request.

The chairman of the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board Adam Kissel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued a statement following the verdict saying he is disappointed by the decision.

"The court’s granting the preliminary injunction is wrong because the charter school laws — like all laws passed by the state’s duly elected legislature — are presumed to be constitutional," Morrisey said. "Since we believe this decision was wrongly decided, we will explore any available avenues of relief at the West Virginia Supreme Court.”

Additionally, the National Coalition for Public School Options (PSO), which is a parent advocacy organization, issued a similar statement.

“West Virginia lawmakers stood with parents, rightly recognizing that charter schools offer a lifeline to some children,” said PSO Board President Letrisha Weber. “The state tried to help at-risk children who desperately need access to charter schools, but it’s all been undone by an activist judge..."

On Twitter, Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers, West Virginia chapter, Tega Toney, called the verdict a "big win in WV against charter schools."

Webmaster/Eastern Panhandle Bureau Chief/Part-time Education Reporter/Producer, emccormick@wvpublic.org, 304-876-9313, @LizMcCormickWV

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