WVDE

The West Virginia Board of Education is calling for public comment on proposed provisions for the implementation of charter schools in the state.

And one teachers union was quick to decide that it will sue.

On the evening of Nov 13, the board released a 54-page charter school policy filled with provisions on the possible implementation of charters. The plan was a twin of the omnibus education bill the Legislature passed in special session. Key provisions of the policy include limiting three charter schools statewide until 2023, allowing for three more charter schools every three years after that, requiring charters to participate in annual state testing and state accountability systems and having them governed by non-profit boards including parents and community members.

And then on Thursday, Nov. 14, the board called for a 60-day public comment period.

Kristin Anderson, communications director for the state Department of Education, confirmed to The Register-Herald that the West Virginia Board of Education voted Thursday to place the new policy on 60-day public comment, per request of board member Debra Sullivan, and revisit the policy then.

The 60-day public comment period is different than most, because when most policies are placed on public comment, it’s typically for only 30 days.

Although the WVBE placed the policy on public comment, one teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, announced plans to sue over the possibility of charter schools.

AFT-West Virginia President Fred Albert said on MetroNews Talkline that he and other members of AFT feel the citizens of West Virginia are being shut out, and are not being listened to.

“Based upon that, we are intending to send a letter of intent to sue over the charter school part,” Albert said. “We feel it is unconstitutional.”

Earlier this year the West Virginia Education Association announced their plans to sue once the omnibus education bill was passed into law. However, they have yet to release a statement on whether or not they plan to follow through with lawsuit, or sue – as AFT-West Virginia is doing – over the establishment by law of charter schools.

The WVBE was tasked with developing the policy when the omnibus bill was passed by legislators. Tega Toney, vice president of AFT-West Virginia and president of AFT-Fayette County, said the the legislation was pushed upon the citizens of West Virginia with little to no input.

“Our legislative majority looked to out-of-state entities when discussing the charter schools, when they should have been seeking input from West Virginia citizens, public educators and students,” Toney said.

Toney said public educators want to make public schools stronger, but can’t do that if charter schools begin to be implemented. She believes it will make public school resources even more scarce than they already are.

“The fact the State Board of Education chose to put this proposed policy out for a 60-day public comment period rather than the usual 30-day comment period speaks volumes,” Toney said. “They are seeking input from those that will be affected the most.”

AFT-West Virginia believes the charter school provision of the omnibus bill runs contrary to the West Virginia Constitution, Toney said, adding that her union is prepared to argue its position in the legal arena.

“Local boards of education are the first line of defense against allowing charter schools in our communities. With that in mind, AFT-West Virginia will be fully engaged in local board of education elections,” she said.

Email: jnelson@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @jnelsonRH

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