Chris Schulz Published

State Supreme Court Rules Against Charter School Challenge

Wooden classroom desks in close up with no students.Adobe Stock

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a suit to stop the creation of five charter schools in the state lacked standing because Gov. Jim Justice does not have the ability to authorize public charter schools.

In late July of 2021, a group sued Justice and legislative leaders Senate President Craig Blair and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw to stop the creation of five charter schools in the state. 

Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey issued an injunction against Justice while the suit worked its way through court. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals had already held up that injunction, allowing the state’s first charter schools to move forward.

Joshua Weishart, attorney for the plaintiffs in the original suit, said the issue was always about the constitutionality of creating independent schools without a vote.

“This wasn’t an anti-charter school case, this was a case to enforce the right of the people to vote,” he said. “It’s a right to direct democracy, to have a say on the creation of these schools.”

The court’s ruling also specified that an injunction against Justice would not prevent the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board from authorizing public charter schools. The PCSB was created by HB 2012 to oversee charter schools in the state. 

In an email Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the senate president, speaker of the house and governor were not the proper parties to the preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs.

“Because of that, the plaintiffs lack the jurisdictional standing necessary to pursue relief in court. Even so, the circuit court enjoined the governor,” he said. “Our office’s efforts and the Supreme Court’s ruling ensure that the government officials are not enjoined when the statutory authority is actually assigned to other state agencies.”

Weishart and his clients still maintain that the state Constitution requires a special election before the creation of an independent charter school, and per the Constitution only the governor can call special elections.

“There was really no claim that we were asserting that they were doing anything unlawful by authorizing a charter school,” he said. “It’s just that there was another step that needed to take place after the authorization, which is to get the voters approval consistent with the constitutional provision.”