Latest News, WV Press Videos

Gay rights draw attention at charter school hearing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Residents and officials expressed concerns over a proposed charter schools bill Tuesday, focusing primarily on a change removing protections for gay and lesbian students.

The West Virginia House of Delegates Finance Committee held a public hearing Tuesday morning on Senate Bill 14 which would allow for the creation of 10 charter schools over a five year period.

But many of those opposed to the bill specifically pointed to an amendment passed last week by the House Education Committee which removed “sexual orientation” from a non-discrimination list.

“I find it very disturbing that this bill does not give all children an equal opportunity,” said Wendy Peters, a third-grade teacher from Raleigh County.

The Rev. Jim Lewis, a priest from Charleston, said gay, lesbian and transgender youths are often targeted for bullying and discrimination and have high suicide rates as a result.

“If this bill were to be passed, it would not give them the kind of protection they need, and right now they do not have the protection they need,” he said. “There should be no place where a kid would not receive this protection.”

“How can we look at a certain group and say they are not worthy of admittance?” said Tega McGuffin with the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers.

Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, said the non-discrimination language in the bill was based on similar language in other state charter school laws and should not have been changed.

“This inclusive language was not radical,” he said. “What is radical is this language was taken out, and our kids can now be subjected to discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Several officials representing teacher unions spoke out against the bill, saying it would create an atmosphere where nepotism and favoritism would reign unchecked.

“This bill provides neither fairness nor equal opportunity for parents or students,” said Kenny Perdue, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO. “The potential for misuse of authority in charter schools is staggering.”

“This union is terrified, terrified of what this legislation could do to our children’s education,” said Christine Campbell, president of AFT-WV. Campbell said the bill amounts of a “draining of our public schools.”

Those who spoke in favor of the bill focused on the need for education reform in West Virginia and said charter schools provide parents with more choices when considering what is best for a child.

“This is about giving people choices in public education,” said Luann Adams, a parent in Kanawha County. “We need to challenge the status quo and enact real change.”

Rev. Matthew Watts, a preacher in Charleston, said there is a need for innovation, especially in areas with minority and low-income students.

“It is time to give charter schools a chance,” he said. “It needs to be on the menu.”

The bill was taken up Tuesday by the House Finance Committee.

To read more from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, subscribe here. 

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address