CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Education Association has announced its plan to sue the state over the education omnibus bill that Gov. Jim Justice signed into law last month.
WVEA sent a notification July 10 to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of its intent to sue the state over House Bill 206.
WVEA President Dale Lee said in a statement that while the WVEA is opposed to the legislation on principle, it has always held that House Bill 206 and its previous versions violated provisions of the state's Constitution.
"In our Intent to sue notice we have listed what we believe are a number of constitutional violations," Lee said. "Those include: the ‘single object’ provision of bills; the ‘thorough and efficient’ public education requirement; 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 said WVEA’s legal team is continuing to explore 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," Lee said. "It is our intent to file our lawsuit in Kanawha County Circuit Court as soon as possible."
Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) said in a statement that the Senate was disheartened by WVEA's plan to file a lawsuit
"While we certainly respect the WVEA’s right to take its grievances with education reform to a court of law, I’m extremely disheartened by this action," Carmichael said. "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 the possibility of a charter school in the future has overshadowed the good the bill does.
"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," Carmichael said. "This bill gives West Virginia’s students, teachers, and parents a multitude of resources that are 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."
The bill includes a variety of proposed changes to the state's education system, including pay raises, charter schools, increased support personnel for schools, open enrollment, incentives to fill in-demand positions and financial support for small or struggling counties. Justice signed it into at the end of June.
The bill allows for three charter schools to begin in West Virginia and for three more in 2023. After that, three more can open every three years.
The WVEA's letter of intent is required under state law before WVEA can file an actual lawsuit against the state. The state requires a 30-day notice before a lawsuit can be filed.