UPDATE: Union intends to sue over recently passed education reform law

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WDTV,WSAZ) — UPDATE 7/10/19 3:00 p.m.
An education union plans to file a lawsuit over the recently passed Omnibus Education Bill, claiming it violates the West Virginia Constitution.

WV Legislative Photography

The West Virginia Education Association sent its intent to sue notice to Attorney General Pattrick Morrisey's office Tuesday, according to a news release.

WVEA President Dale Lee said the union believes a there are numerous constitutional violations in HB 206, signed into law by Governor Justice last month.

" Those include: the ‘single object’ provision of bills; the ‘thorough and efficient’ public education requirement; the establishing of new boards to govern charter schools; the lack of voter approval for a number of things associated with charter schools; and the ‘void of vagueness’ doctrine," Lee said.

Lee said the WVEA legal team is looking at other provisions in the bill it deems could be unconstitutional.

"Since the state requires notice of a lawsuit we wanted to go ahead and get that timeframe started," Lee said. "It is our intent to file our lawsuit in Kanawha County Circuit Court as soon as possible.”

Senate President Mitch Carmichael issued the following statement in response to the announcement:

"While we certainly respect the WVEA’s right to take its grievances with education reform to a court of law, I’m extremely disheartened by this action. The WVEA is an organization that claims to represent the interests of teachers, yet it has now started a process that puts at risk millions of dollars directly to county school systems and a second consecutive year of 5-percent raises to teachers and service personnel. It’s sad that the obsessive hysteria over the possibility of an elected county board of education authorizing a charter school – two years from now – is enough to completely overshadow the benefits of House Bill 206. This bill gives West Virginia’s students, teachers, and parents a multitude of resources that are desperately needed and wanted, and they help lay a foundation for the kind of world-class education our children deserve. I’m not surprised by the attempt of these union bosses to derail the Legislature’s efforts to improve education, but I’m still very disappointed by it.”

UPDATE 6/28/19 @ 5:33
Senate President release a statement Friday thanking Governor Jim Justice for signing House Bill 206.

“I thank Governor Justice for choosing the students of West Virginia today by signing House Bill 206," said Carmichael. "The Senate has been a strong advocate for comprehensive education reform from the beginning, and this bill is a positive first step."

Carmichael said that he believe's the changes in the bill will help students and teachers and is excited for the future of the state.

UPDATE 6/28/19 @ 5:22 p.m.
Governor Jim Justice signed the omnibus education reform bill, House Bill 206 Friday.

House Bill 206 passed the Senate Monday.

UPDATE 6/24/19 @ 8:10 p.m.
Months of protests and debate are over as Governor Jim Justice is expected to sign the omnibus education reform bill passed Monday by the West Virginia Senate.

"We've made changes in the face of criticism, in the face of vitriolic protest," Senate President Mitch Carmichael said following Monday's 18-16 vote on H.B. 206.

Those protests and demonstrations were less visible Monday as the final votes were cast to pass the bill to the governor. Teachers and lawmakers said they realized the end result was inevitable.

"The governor was on board and the leadership of both houses were on board," said Senate Majority Leader Roman Prezioso. "We knew exactly what was going to happen. We knew pretty much it was over."

In a tweet, the governor said he looks forward to signing the bill.

"I applaud the @wvsenate for passing the education bill tonight," Gov. Justice tweeted. "This is the correct resolution that aids our teachers, students, and all those in the education community and I look forward to signing it. #WV"

The bill gives additional funding for every county school system in the state, increasing public education funding by nearly 150 million dollars. The legislation also gives teachers their long-awaited pay raises and allocates $30 million for wrap-around support services.

"This is a moment that we will mark as a turning point in the education delivery mechanism in our state," Carmichael said.

The previously considered education savings accounts proposal didn't make it in this bill. They would have allocated taxpayer dollars to students leaving public education for private schooling.

The most controversial component of the bill sets up the possibility for the state's first charter schools.

Three public charters are allowed to open until 2023 throughout the state, with county boards of education having control over the schools. Then only three more charters can be added every three subsequent years.

It's still unclear where those charters could open and when, but union leaders are developing strategies to fight those at the county levels.

"The educators and the public across West Virginia repeatedly said we don't want charter schools, and yet that's what we do," said WVEA President Dale Lee said.

Teacher Stacey Strawderman is the vice president of the West Virginia chapter of the AFT and president of Marion County's AFT.

"We need to change the makeup of the Senate," Strawderman said. "That's what we're going to be focusing on in 2020. We're mobilizing. We're going to work hard to elect people who care about our students and not their pocketbooks or other outside agencies."

Democrats were largely opposed to the process the bill went through en route to its passage, bypassing the traditional committee process.

"We failed to listen to the people," Prezioso said. "I think that's what's disheartening. When you go out and listen to the general public and ask for their input and respect that input, then to come to Charleston and totally ignore it - That was the major problem with the bill."

UPDATE 6/24/19 @ 8:10 p.m.
The West Virginia Senate has passed H.B. 206, the latest attempt to pass sweeping education reform legislation.

House Bill 206 would allow for a staggered implementation of charter schools, limiting the state to three charters until 2023 and allowing three more every three years after that.

Gov. Jim Justice says he would sign the House bill as is.

Stick with 5 News for the latest.

UPDATE 6/21/19 @ 5:10 p.m.
The West Virginia Senate reconvenes Monday evening for a special session, where they will take up the House Education Bill.

Senate president Mitch Carmichael says he approves of the House Education Bill as is, and hopes the Senate can pass it without making any amendments.

Gov. Jim Justice says he will sign the house bill as is.

The Senate reconvenes at 5:00 Monday evening.

UPDATE 6/21/19 @ 5:10 p.m.
The West Virginia Senate will return Monday to take up a sweeping education bill that would allow the state’s first charter schools.

A Senate spokeswoman made the announcement Friday.

The wide-ranging GOP proposal would allow for a staggered implementation of charter schools, limiting the state to three charters until 2023 then letting three more go up every three years after that.

The House of Delegates passed the bill earlier this week.

Republican Senate President Mitch Carmichael has said he wants to pass the bill in its current form.

Teacher unions and Democrats have opposed efforts to install charters as a move driven by outside interests that will steer money away from public schools. Educators have protested against the bill.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice has expressed support for the measure.

West Virginia’s Senate leader says he wants to pass a sweeping House GOP education bill that would allow the state’s first charter schools.

Republican Senate President Mitch Carmichael told The Associated Press on Thursday that he’s not going to try to amend the proposal when it gets to his chamber.

The House passed the measure late Wednesday. It would allow for a staggered implementation of charter schools, limiting the state to three charters until 2023 then letting three more go up every three years after that.

Carmichael has led the legislative push for charter schools. A similar, wide-ranging bill he sponsored didn’t cap the number of charters and sparked massive teacher protests at the Capitol this month.

“We’re pleased with it,” Carmichael said of the House bill. “We would always want more but we’re not going to let perfect be the enemy of the good.”

He said he plans to call the Senate back in next week to take up the proposal.

Teachers union leaders and Democrats have opposed efforts to install charters as a move driven by outside interests that will steer money away from public schools.

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, told reporters that the legislature has been ignoring the will of the people.

“It’s plain and clear” that lawmakers “didn’t want to listen to West Virginians,” he said.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice has tweeted support for the bill, which also includes a pay raise for teachers, calling it a “major step toward building new opportunities for our children.”

Justice called the special legislative session after lawmakers failed to agree on education measures following a teacher strike during the regular session.

He asked lawmakers to go out and seek input from the public before returning. Public forums on education were held statewide, at the end of which the Department of Education released a report saying 88 percent of people who answered a comment card at the meetings opposed the creation of charters.