Paine not yet ready to release draft on charter schools policy

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — State School Superintendent Dr. Steve Paine decided to pull the plug on plans to release a draft of the proposed policy for public charter schools at Wednesday’s state Board of Education meeting in Clarksburg.

Dr. Steven Paine

“I put a halt on the policy because I’m not comfortable with it coming forward yet,” Paine told board members. “We’ve done a lot of work. They’ve done a tremendous amount of work and good quality work but I want to have some personal discussions.”

The new state law gives the board until November to put the plan out for public comment. Paine said he wants to take advantage of the next month.

“I want to make sure they’ve we’ve dotted all of the i’s and crossed the t’s to the best of our ability and worked with everyone. This is a hard one because we have stakeholders on both sides of the issue,” Paine said.

The avenue to create public charter schools is part of the legislature’s education reform bill that was signed into law back in June. The law allows for three charter schools initially then three more in 2023, then three more every three years.

Charters could be established by 501(c) organizations that apply to county school boards which could approve or reject the proposals. Charter schools would be exempt from many state regulations but run the risk of losing their charters if they can’t sustain their standards.

Both the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia and the West Virginia Education Association sent letters to Gov. Jim Justice, asking him to veto the bill.

“This bill will soon reach your desk and while it may have several good provisions, the final language still contains charter schools and the erosion of employee rights,” wrote WVEA President Dale Lee at the time.

The WVEA has since notified the state it plans to file a lawsuit over the new law but nothing has yet been filed.

Paine indicated Wednesday he wants to loop some other people into the charter school discussion.

“I just want to very sincerely and authentically have those discussions with some of the people that we’ve worked with, maybe with some new people, teachers, principals, school board members, legislators, lots of people,” Paine said.

A state Department of Education working group led by Governor Affairs Counsel Sarah Stewart has formulating the draft for several weeks. Stewart told board members Wednesday the department has met with numerous stakeholders including the organizations representing West Virginia teachers, people in other states that administer charter schools and principals of charter schools.

“We’ve been trying to get as much information, input and feedback. We’ve been working diligently to pull together a policy,” Stewart said.

Paine said Stewart was ready to go with the draft but he made the call to put the brakes on its public release for a few weeks.

“It’s a hard job that they’ve had to do. They’ve done a very job of it and hopefully when we bring it to you you’ll have the confidence that we have the best policy we can bring around a controversial issue,” Paine said.

Stewart said the department’s plan is to release the draft proposal before the state School Board’s November meeting. The board will then vote at that meeting whether to put the policy out for a public comment period.

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