Liz McCormick Published

Kanawha Judge Hears W.Va. Charter School Arguments With Decision Expected As Early As Friday

Wooden classroom desks

A judge in Kanawha County Circuit Court heard arguments Tuesday on the constitutionality of West Virginia’s public charter school law.

Plaintiffs calling the state’s charter school law unconstitutional are seeking an injunction from the Kanawha County Circuit Court. This would temporarily halt the creation of five recently approved charter schools.

Petitioners say the state’s charter law is unconstitutional, because it allows for charters, which are public schools, to be created without the direct involvement of voters.

Charter schools in West Virginia are approved by the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board, whose members are not elected. This entity bypasses county school boards’ involvement, whose members are elected.

The first charter school law passed in West Virginia in 2019. At that time, county school boards had the power to approve or deny charter school applications. That was amended in 2021 when the West Virginia Legislature created the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board to be the state’s charter authorizer.

Also in 2021, the legislature expanded the limit of charter schools that may be approved by 2023, from three schools in the original law, to 10. This expansion also included the addition of virtual charter schools.

Those in favor of the law are asking for the injunction to be denied, saying parents have a right to choose between traditional public schools and public charter schools.

Defendants also say the voter argument is a moot point, because legislators are voted into office and it was the legislature that created West Virginia’s charter law.

Kanawha County Judge Jennifer Bailey said she will come to a decision on the case by Friday.

Three brick-and-mortar charter schools were approved by the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board in November. One week later, the board approved two statewide virtual charter schools.

All five schools are expected to open in fall 2022.