The West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) announced Wednesday afternoon plans to sue the state over the recent passage of House Bill 206, an omnibus education bill allowing for the formation of charter schools.
According to WVEA officials, the association sent notification to Attorney General Patrick Morrissey's office Tuesday of their intent to sue. Officials said the letter of intent is the required precursor to filing the actual lawsuit, because West Virginia requires a 30-day notice prior to a lawsuit being filed.
The West Virginia Legislature passed the sweeping education bill in June, which not only allows the charter schools in West Virginia, but ties in a promised pay raise for teachers. Republican Gov. Jim Justice recently signed the bill into law.
Del. Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, said he found violations within the bill shortly after it passed. He said he believes the omnibus bill violates Article 6 Chapter 30 of the West Virginia constitution stating, "No act hereafter passed, shall embrace more than one object, and that shall be expressed in the title."
WVEA President Dale Lee said he and union members also believe H.B. 206 and all previous versions of the omnibus education bill violate the state's constitution, aside from opposing the bill strictly on principle.
"In our intent to sue we have listed what we believe are a number of constitutional violations," Lee said. "Those include the 'single object' provision of the bills; the 'thorough and efficient' public education requirement; and the establishing of new boards to govern charter schools; the lack of voter approval for a number of things associated with charter schools; and the 'void of vagueness' doctrine."
Lee added WVEA's legal team is still exploring other constitutional violations to include in the lawsuit.
"Since the state requires notice of a lawsuit we wanted to go ahead and get that timeframe started," he said. "It is our intent to file our lawsuit in Kanawha County Circuit Court as soon as possible."
Senate President Mitch Carmichael released a statement Wednesday afternoon to say while he certainly respects the WVEA's right to "take its grievances with education reform to a court of law," he's extremely disheartened by it.
"The WVEA is an organization that claims to represent the interests of teachers, yet it has now started a process that puts at risk millions of dollars directly to county school systems and a second consecutive year of 5-percent raises to teachers and service personnel," Carmichael said. "It’s sad that the obsessive hysteria over the possibility of an elected county board of education authorizing a charter school – two years from now – is enough to completely overshadow the benefits of House Bill 206."
He added the bill gives West Virginia’s students, teachers, and parents a multitude of resources desperately needed and wanted, and they help lay a foundation for the kind of world-class education our children deserve.
"I’m not surprised by the attempt of these union bosses to derail the Legislature’s efforts to improve education, but I’m still very disappointed by it," Carmichael said.
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