CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Don’t count on Gov. Jim Justice to support legislation establishing charter schools in West Virginia.

“I’m not for that,” the governor said when asked about the possibility during a press conference.

The governor is also a basketball coach at Greenbrier East High School. And he briefly served on the Raleigh County school board.

Since the beginning of his administration, he has talked about making public education a centerpiece.

Charter schools are publicly-funded but have greater flexibility than regular schools, operating independently of the established state school system. In return, they’re meant to have greater accountability for their performance.

Justice said West Virginia isn’t in position to gamble on charter schools.

“I just believe that today as we strive to provide a better education for everyone, we don’t really need to cherrypick the privileged until we get our public education system in a really good way,” he said.

Mitch Carmichael

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, presenting legislative priorities on Tuesday, expressed support for charter schools.

“One hundred percent from my perspective,” said Carmichael, R-Jackson.

Not supporting charter schools is a vote for the status quo, Carmichael contended.

“The governor has his opinion, and we have ours,” he said.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, who was also asked about charter schools, generally said he supports educational reform.

Roger Hanshaw

“I support any meaningful education reform,” said Hanshaw, R-Clay.

Hanshaw did not specify support for charter schools, though.

“People mean different things when they use that term,” he said.

Carmichael and Hanshaw each spoke Monday with a group of Republican legislators who discussed priorities for the regular session that kicks off Wednesday.

Some of their priorities focus on education.

They propose continued improvement of pay and benefits for teachers, service personnel and other state workers.

And they propose some sort of enhanced compensation for teachers in high-demand fields such as math and science.

More priorities include eliminating the personal income tax on Social Security, starting to eliminate the property tax on business equipment and inventory and making changes to the homestead exemption.

They want to promote expansion of broadband and also expand access to greater workforce training opportunities.

And they want to reform foster care and adoption programs.

“The theme of this legislative session is to make West Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family,” Hanshaw said. “Everything we do will be with this goal in mind.”

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