CHARLESTON, W.Va. — President Donald Trump has weighed in on West Virginia’s debate over education betterment, although it’s unclear what effect it will have.
Trump used his favorite form of communication, Twitter, to send a message at midday Monday about West Virginia’s education special session.
“One size doesn’t fit all — support West Virginia schools,” Trump tweeted. “Keep up the great work @WVGovernor Big Jim Justice — I am with you.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 17, 2019
That appears to have been prompted by a tweet — and possibly a phone call — from Justice.
“Just had a great conversation with @realDonaldTrump,” Justice’s social media account stated Friday.
“We talked about our good public schools in WV and how he totally supports my plan for WV public schools. The President and I are bound at the hip, and he has done remarkable work that has been tremendously beneficial for WV!”
This has gone around and around for weeks.
It all started with a tweet by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on May 31, expressing support for changes to West Virginia’s education system that could include charter schools and education savings accounts, which set aside taxpayer dollars for students leaving public school for private education.
West Virginia has an opportunity to improve education for all & put the needs of students first. Looking forward to seeing bold moves to offer robust options like charter schools & ESAs and support great teachers. Let’s get it done @WVGovernor, @SenCarmichaelWV & @SpeakerHanshaw!
— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) May 31, 2019
Justice, a Republican with a close relationship with Trump, was asked about that statement a few days later.
Justice called the current special session on “education betterment” but has expressed misgivings about charter schools and education savings accounts. His main goal is a long-promised pay raise for teachers.
“It surprised me,” the governor said pf DeVos on June 2. “I would even say that it probably even surprised the president. I immediately made a call to the people who are working with me on my campaign and everything. It stunned them. So that’s about all I can say.”
Trump himself has expressed support for more flexibility in school systems, though.
Earlier this year, when Tennessee’s Legislature was close to passing an education savings account bill, Trump tweeted in support of that.
The Great State of Tennessee is so close to passing School Choice. All of our Nation’s children, regardless of background, deserve a shot at achieving the American Dream! Time to get this done, so important!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2019
In January, Trump issued a proclamation for “School Choice Week.” “I also encourage State lawmakers and Federal lawmakers to expand school choice for millions of additional students,” Trump stated.
Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, made a floor speech in the House of Delegates on Monday evening, focusing on the confusion.
“Now You guys are in a dilemma,” said to Republicans in the House. “What are you going to do now? Are you not on Team Trump any more? Are you on Team Betsy? Which one are you on?”
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said it was unclear if Trump’s tweet would have any effect on delegates’ positions.
“You know, I’m not sure because I actually wasn’t sure that I understood what he said,” Hanshaw told reporters after Monday evening’s floor session.
Then, re-reading the tweet, Hanshaw concluded, “Well, I think we all support West Virginia schools. We all agree one size doesn’t fit all. That’s the reason we’re trying to put some county choice in the process.”