FAIRMONT – On Tuesday, the West Virginia Education Association sent an Intent to Sue Notice to the State in response to the passage of House Bill 206.
A press release from the union cites several provisions of West Virginia’s Constitution that the Omnibus Education Bill violates, which they believe, a lawsuit could correct.
“While we opposed this legislation on principle, we have always held that HB 206, and all the previous versions of the Omnibus Education Bill, violates the provisions of West Virginia’s Constitution,” said WVEA president Dale Lee. “Since the state requires notice of a lawsuit, we wanted to go ahead and get that timeframe started. It is our intent to file our lawsuit in Kanawha County Circuit Court as soon as possible.”
Lee said language used HB 206 violates the West Virginia Constitution including “thorough and efficient public education requirements; 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.”
On Wednesday, Senate President Mitch Carmichael responded to the notice via a statement in which he said he is “Disheartened.”
“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.”
Marion County Education Association President Allyson Perry said charter schools are at the center of the legal challenge.
“It’s a good thing we have checks and balances,” Perry said. “We’ll just have to let it play out in the courts and see what they find violating the Constitution.”
Perry added that the creation of charter schools could violate the state Constitution in that they would provide an unequal method of education to students throughout the state.
“One of our major concerns was that charter schools will provide an unequal education,” she said. “Charter schools will upend that equality.”
Stacey Strawderman, vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the AFT is also organizing a coalition to take legal action against the Omnibus Bill, and will have news out on the matter in the coming weeks. However, the State of West Virginia requires a notice of at least 30 days prior to a lawsuit being filed, according to the WVEA press release.