Yesterday a Kanawha County Circuit Judge granted an injunction requested by a group of teachers union representatives to halt the implementation of charter schools in West Virginia. Fortunately for the hundreds of families who have already pre-registered at West Virginia Academy, the school is moving forward with its plans for next fall and will open irrespective of the outcome of this litigation. As announced last August, West Virginia Academy will open either as a public charter school or as a non-profit hope scholarship school. As such, the academy's opening in the Fall of 2022 is not contingent upon a favorable outcome in the pending litigation, although some programs and processes would be impacted.
While the injunction is merely a preliminary ruling, it appears to have been strategically deployed at a critical time for charter schools to cause delay. Judge Jennifer Bailey has a history of granting improper injunctions to union-friendly plaintiffs based on political motivations and her decisions have commonly been overruled on appeal. In fact, she was overruled multiple times in the same lawsuit in a case involving the West Virginia right-to-work statute. This case may likely be no different and yesterday's rulings should be reversed on appeal.
The Attorney General's office indicated that it intends to immediately file an appeal of the decision. If the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals acts quickly and grants a stay of the lower court's injunction, then yesterday's ruling would have little or no effect whatsoever. A stay would allow the charter schools to continue to progress toward opening in the Fall and the High Court would then likely consider arguments over whether the injunction was properly issued and could determine that the lawsuit should have been dismissed.
If the West Virginia Supreme Court takes no action before the end of February, then approved charter schools may likely be prevented from entering into charter contracts prior to the statutory deadlines that hit that month and would then have to wait until at least the Fall of 2023 to open. As such, within the next few weeks West Virginia Academy will have greater clarity on whether it is opening as a public charter school or a non-profit hope scholarship school next fall. West Virginia Academy is hopeful that the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia will stay the injunction in short order and then, after full consideration, vacate the injunction and dismiss the case.