Governor Justice surprised by DeVos tweet in favor of W.Va. school choice initiatives

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice loves Donald Trump, but the governor did not love a recent tweet from a top Trump administration official in support of school choice initiatives in West Virginia.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, two days ago, put out a social media message in support of an omnibus education bill being considered in the state Senate. That bill includes charter schools and education savings accounts, which set aside taxpayer dollars for students leaving public school for private education.

Justice announced a party switch from Democrat to Republican two years ago while onstage with President Trump at a rally in West Virginia. He has often described a close relationship with Trump, the president’s family and members of the president’s administration.

But even though the Republican majority in the state Senate has pushed for increased school choice options, Justice has been more reluctant. He has expressed willingness to accept a few charter schools and has been less enthusiastic about education savings accounts.

Justice met with both Republican and Democratic senators on Sunday afternoon and then made public remarks to the media. He said there’s little point in continuing an ongoing special session if divides continue over issues like charter schools.

When reporters asked about the DeVos tweet, Justice said he wasn’t expecting it.

“It surprised me,” the governor said. “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.”

Justice announced the hiring of Mike Lukach as his campaign manger for 2020. Lukach’s recent election experiences include management work in Minnesota and Colorado for the Trump campaign in 2016.

In this year’s State of the Union address, President Trump urged lawmakers to “pass school choice for America’s children.”

In April, as Tennessee’s Legislature was ready to pass a bill establishing education savings accounts, Trump tweeted his support.

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