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Legislative Lookahead: Charter schools not on the menu this W.Va. legislative session

By TAYLOR STUCK

The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia legislators are putting the charter school debate back on the shelf for the upcoming session, Monongalia County Del. Joe Statler, vice chairman of Education, said Friday during the West Virginia Press Association’s Legislative Lookahead in Charleston.

Delegate Robert Thompson, D-Wayne; discusses possible legislation that would impact education in West Virginia during the West Virginia Press Association’s Legislative Lookahead Friday, Jan. 5, in Charleston. West Virginia Press Association Photo
Statler said after many constituent meetings, there is just not any support for charter schools at this time. He said he believes it’s a great discussion that needs to continue, but no legislation will be presented this session.
Statler, a Republican, said he will introduce a bill that would allow parents of students with special needs to open education savings accounts, which he recognized is a type of voucher program. Voucher programs are most often used to allow public school students to go to charter schools, taking the state funding with them.
The program would give parents control of their child’s education by allowing them to send them to a school with a better program more fit for their needs. It would also allow parents to purchase technology, classroom materials or anything else they think would help their child.
Del. Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, and Del. Robert Thompson, D-Wayne, said they were skeptical but would be willing to take a look at the legislation. A teacher himself, Thompson said he was skeptical of anything that could take money out of the public schools, and Rowe said it tiptoes around that.

Christine Campbell, with the American Federal of Teachers of West Virginia, said she didn’t think such a program is necessary. Citing her own experience as a teacher in Pocahontas County with a student who is blind and has autism, she said schools already have the ability to bring in whatever assistance a student needs. She also questioned the accessibility of such a program in rural areas that wouldn’t have the option to send their child somewhere else.

Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers, discusses possible legislation that would impact education in West Virginia, while Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, listens during the West Virginia Press Association’s Legislative Lookahead Friday, Jan. 5, in Charleston. West Virginia Press Association Photo
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