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State board rejects attempt to postpone charter school policy public comment period

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Board of Education rejected an attempt Wednesday to postpone putting a policy for the state’s new charter school law out for public comment.

Debra Sullivan

Board member Debra Sullivan pushed to delay the move by a month to give state Department of Education staff more time to gather input on the proposed policy before allowing the public to comment for 30 days.

“The comment period will illicit all sorts of comments but a lot of issues, I think, could have been dealt with earlier in the process, questions that people have could be dealt with,” Sullivan said.

The state’s updated charter school law passed by the state legislature earlier this year mandates the state BOE approve a policy governing charter schools by July 1. Sullivan said it’s been less than two months since the legislative session ended and not enough time for an entire review.

“The executive summary (of the proposed policy) which lists external stakeholders involvement does not include a single West Virginia superintendent or educator,” Sullivan said. “Those are the folks who are going to be affected by this or any policy.”

Tom Campbell

Sullivan, who is the board member appointed to review proposed polices, said she only had a week to review the charter school policy.

“They (the staff) have had to revise this incredibly complex policy under what I feel has been significant time constraints. They haven’t had the time. I can speak personally, I haven’t had the time,” Sullivan said.

But board member Tom Campbell opposed Sullivan’s motion for delay. He said the board can still change the policy after the public comment period.

“I believe that if the policy goes out on comment there’ll be plenty of time for more work. I feel like a delay in the process at this point is not necessary,” Campbell said.

State Board President Miller Hall said the board has to follow the new law.

“We’ve got a mandate from the legislature saying July 1st, we need to comply,” Hall said.

Miller Hall

The board voted to send the proposal out for the comment period on a voice vote. Sullivan voted against it.

The new law, which was signed by Gov. Jim Justice in March, allows for a greater number of charter schools than the original 2019 law. There can be 10 additional charter schools every three years. The law includes a provision for two statewide online schools. Enrollment can be up to 5% of enrollment in the state’s public schools.

The law also called for the creation of a board to oversee the approval of charter schools.

The state Supreme Court heard arguments last month in connection with a charter school application that was denied in Monongalia and Preston counties.

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