CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Although legislative approval of charter schools ended up being a no-starter after passage of a 2019 enabling bill, the legislature has followed through on expansion as a part of their 2021 agenda.
It will now be up to Governor Jim Justice to either sign or veto.new legislation that passed yesterday allowing for the charter expansion.
In the past, Justice has said he opposes charter schools but there was no word from the governor’s office Friday morning on what his plans are for House Bill 2012.
Republicans control a supermajority in both houses of the legislature with what is known as a “veto-proof” majority. However, that term is contingent on members of the GOP sticking together in the face of any Justice veto. It is not yet clear if that will happen in actual practice. Republicans gained their “veto-proof” status in the November 2020 general election.
The bill passed Wednesday legalizes the first completely online charter schools and permits greater expansion of in-person charters.
Under the new legislation, an appointed board could approve up to two statewide virtual charter schools.
Each of the two could enroll up to 5% of the statewide public school enrollment. That means the online schools could have about 25,000 students combined, according to figures provided by supporters of the bill.
The legislation further allows for virtual and in-person charters to expand at a rate of up to ten every three years. That number was three-under prior law.
Public educators are widely opposed to charter schools, claiming they siphon much-needed funds from public schools. State funding for schools comes on a School Aid Formula that is based on the number of students enrolled.
The 2019 law did not lead to the opening of any charter schools this school year, the first that would have permitted it.
When the Senate voted Monday, three Republicans joined with the 11 Democrats to make the outcome 19- 14. David Stover, a Wyoming County Republican, was absent.
Republicans Amy Grady of Mason County; Bill Hamilton of Upshur; and Ryan Weld of Brooke voted against the proposal.
The House voted, 68-31, to send the amended bill to the governor.
Democrat Delegate Sean Hornbuckle of Cabell was absent.
Republicans who voted no were Josh Booth of Wayne; Jordan Bridges of Logan; Mark Dean, Mingo: Zack Maynard, Lincoln; George Miller, Morgan; Tony Paynter, Wyoming; Matthew Rohrbach, Cabell; Ruth Rowan, Hampshire; and Christopher Toney, R