CHARLESTON, Va. (AP) – Two West Virginia fathers are suing state officials over a law that allows charter schools to open without the approval of local voters, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.
The lawsuit filed last week in Kanawha County Circuit Court says the law is unconstitutional and calls on the judge to prevent a new West Virginia professionally chartered school board from authorizing schools.
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The lawsuit comes after Republican state lawmakers amended an earlier charter school law in March, making it easier for them to gain approval. The changes created the Professional Charter School Board, which can approve both online charters that operate statewide and brick-and-mortar charter schools operating in individual districts. These schools can be approved even in counties where local school boards object.
The professional charter school board is not elected. Instead, members are appointed by the governor and then confirmed or rejected by the state Senate. The four proposed board members are currently awaiting confirmation, even as they consider applications to open new schools.
Charter schools are publicly funded, privately run, tuition-free public schools that generally do not have to follow the same rules and regulations as traditional public schools. So far, seven charter school applications have been filed with the Professional Charter School Board. None have been filed with local school boards, although the law still allows this route.
The two fathers who are pursuing the new law are both public school teachers and members of the teachers’ union. The defendants in this case include Governor Jim Justice and leaders of the House of Delegates and the Senate.
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The lawsuit quotes a section of the state constitution that says: “No independent free school district or organization shall be created thereafter except with the consent of the school district (s) from which it is to be created, expressed by a majority of voters voting on the issue.
The lawsuit calls the right to vote on matters relating to public schools a “decisive democratic virtue.”
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw R-Clay and Senate Speaker Craig Blair R-Berkeley declined to comment for the newspaper.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
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