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Judge to issue ruling soon in charter school case

December 15, 2021 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A judge has heard arguments in a lawsuit that seeks to stop the newly created West Virginia Professional Charter School Board from authorizing any new schools.

Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey said she would issue a ruling by Friday after hearing from lawyers Tuesday in a virtual hearing, news outlets reported.

Two West Virginia fathers sued state officials earlier this year after they amended a law to allow charter schools to open without the approval of local voters. The suit claims the law is unconstitutional. Defendants include Gov. Jim Justice and the leaders of the House of Delegates and Senate.

The creation of the Professional Charter School Board ignores a provision of the state constitution that says “independent free school district(s)” cannot be created without the consent of the school district or voters in that district, said Joshua Weishart, a law professor at West Virginia University who is helping representing the plaintiffs.

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“At stake in this suit is the constitutional right of county voters to vote on their local schools,” he said.

Assistant state attorney general Sean Whelan, who represents state officials, said the constitution doesn’t prohibit “the existence of a school district within another school district.”

“The plaintiffs want to vote on whether other West Virginians get to send their kids to charter schools,” he said. “The constitution does not afford them this right.”

He also argued that the governor and Legislature have no statutory role in authorizing charter schools so the plaintiffs are seeking an injunction against the wrong parties.