West Virginia’s Supreme Court has issued an order requiring the Monongalia County board of education to defend why it rejected the state’s first charter school application.
The order also applies to the state Department of Education.
Four of the five Supreme Court justices agreed and set oral argument for May 4. Justice Bill Wooton noted that he would have denied the petition by the charter school applicant.
West Virginia Academy, a month ago, filed an emergency petition.
“Upon consideration of the petition, the appendix record, and all briefs filed, the Court is of the opinion that a rule should be awarded,” justices wrote.
“It is ordered that a rule does issue commanding and directing the respondents, to show cause, if any they can, why a writ of mandamus should not be ordered.”
John Treu, president of West Virginia Academy, said he’s pleased by the court’s decision.
“It’s really quite exceptional to have a case move so quickly and decisively, but we know our cause is just. We believe that the law is on our side and that our charter application was, in fact, approved by operation of law last fall,” Treu said.
“We greatly appreciate that the High Court has agreed to move the case forward on an expedited basis. We are excited to be one step closer to opening a charter school that can serve the many parents and students in our community who are looking for something different than the current public school offerings.”
West Virginia Academy contends the Monongalia and Preston county school boards missed the window to decide on its application to establish a charter school in the area — and that should have resulted in approval by default.
The Academy’s filing at the Supreme Court also contends the school boards of those counties did not follow the proper procedures, including meeting together to consider the application for the charter, which would have served students from both counties.
Monongalia’s board unanimously voted against the application by the West Virginia Academy during an hour-long meeting on Nov. 30. The neighboring Preston County school board separately voted down the same proposal during its own 5 p.m. meeting the same day.
Monongalia board members said the application fell short on a variety of issues.
West Virginia’s legislature approved the establishment of charter schools in 2019 after months of debate on an omnibus education bill. Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill into law in June, 2019.
The measure allowed for three charter schools to be opened in the state but requires local approval within 90 days of an application.
Charter schools would be part of the state’s public education system and would be given greater latitude in exchange for the possibility of losing their right to operate if they fail.
This year, the Legislature passed a bill that would allow 10 charter schools within the first three years. The bill also allows a newly-established charter school authorization board to approve applications, providing a second route.