W.Va. Professional Charter School Board receives updates as school year begins
CHARLESTON — The board in charge of supervising West Virginia’s public charter schools heard updates Tuesday on enrollment, updated some rules, and made changes to its budget as it fights a lawsuit to shut down the state’s charter school pilot project.
The West Virginia Professional Charter School (PCSB) met virtually Tuesday morning. Executive Director James Paul briefed board members on the latest enrollment numbers for the state’s two brick-and-mortar charter schools and two statewide virtual charter schools.
The West Virginia Academy, serving students in Monongalia and Preston counties, began the school year Aug. 2 with 470 students. The school serves students in kindergarten through ninth grade. Enrollment for the Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy is 381. The school will serve students in pre-K through 10th grade.
The West Virginia Virtual Academy has 159 verified enrollments with additional applications being reviewed. The Virtual Preparatory Academy of West Virginia has 104 verified enrollments.
“All together, that puts enrollments above 1,100 students with higher numbers still expected from the virtual schools in the coming weeks,” Paul said.
The PCSB approved an update to its rules and bylaws creating a residency verification requirement for public charter schools. The schools would be required to verify the home address for a student wishing to enroll in the school. The verification rule is not required for any students transferring from an in-state public school to a public charter school.
PCSB Chairman Adam Kissel said the rule change was required after butting heads with the state Department of Education. Department officials wanted students who moved from out-of-state to West Virginia to first enroll in a public school before enrolling in a public charter school in order to ensure that 10% of the state school aid formula that follows students remains in the public school. The other 90% follows the student to the public charter school.
“That was frankly an insane idea,” Kissel said. “We said back to the department that won’t work. The idea for a parent that they would have to involve themselves in the regular public school and then involve themselves in the public charter school didn’t make sense.”
Kissel said an alternative idea presented by the Department of Education to have the public charter school enroll the student in the county public school then re-enroll them into the charter school also wouldn’t work. Kissel said by requiring charter schools to verify state residency, that should allow county school systems to retain the 10% of the student aid formula.
Finally, the PCSB approved changes to its budget to create a new line item for legal expenses. The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office is representing the PCSB in a lawsuit filed last year by two parents and school union members in an attempt to block the state’s public charter school pilot program.
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals granted an order in February staying a decision by Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey last December granting a motion for a preliminary injunction to block further implementation of the public charter schools. The PCSB approved a $25,000 line item to cover legal expenses over two fiscal years while the case continues to move through the legal system.
“The budget that you have in front of you would cover legal expenses that the (Attorney General’s) Office has already billed to the PCSB and it would also cover future expenses that we estimate for the rest of the fiscal year,” Paul said.
The PCSB’s total budget for the current fiscal year that began in July is $164,532. The next meeting of the PCSB is Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 8 a.m.