CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice apparently planned and then canceled ceremonial bill signing events that had been set for Monday in several areas of the state.
Groups that oppose an omnibus education bill that opens the way for charter schools were preparing to protest the events.
The omnibus bill is the most prominent legislation passed earlier this week by the state Senate. The bill has aspects such as pay raises and increased funding for student support services but also a controversial provision allowing charter schools.
The Governor’s Office never officially announced the bill signing events. Communications staff at school systems in Kanawha and Jefferson counties confirmed the cancellations of events that had been planned at elementary schools.
The Governor’s Office was believed to be planning events in Greenbrier County and in the Northern Panhandle too.
When the bill passed, Justice’s Twitter account issued a supportive statement.
“I applaud the
@wvsenate for passing the education bill tonight. This is the correct resolution that aids our teachers, students, and all those in the education community and I look forward to signing it. #WV”
The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia and the West Virginia Education Association, which rallied against versions of the education bill for months, each sent letters this week to Justice, asking him to veto it.
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee had heard the bill signing events described. He suggested there would have been protests.
“We’ve heard that rumor, and people are angry, still feel like educators were shown no respect and that their voices weren’t listened to,” Lee said in a telephone interview.
“I would anticipate if he goes out, there will be people there.”
Delegate Sammi Brown, D-Jefferson, wrote a post on Facebook on Friday morning to let people know about the planned appearance by the governor. Brown and all other Democrats in the House of Delegates voted against the omnibus bill.
“This is not the will of the People of Jefferson County. This is not the will of the State West Virginia,” she wrote. “This is certainly not the will of Educators, and Personnel.”
A few hours later, she went live with a video, announcing the event had been canceled.
“Because of your engagement, rapid action, and willingness to mobilize— you were, in fact, HEARD,” she wrote as an introduction to the video. What an amazing collaborative effort early this AM to push back… Ladies and gentleman: The Governor will NOT be signing in JCo. I repeat: OMNIBUS WILL NOT BE SIGNED IN JEFFERSON COUNTY.”