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WVEA to sue to stop charter schools

CHARLESTON — A sweeping West Virginia GOP education bill that allows the creation of charter schools violates the state Constitution, according to a teachers union that plans to sue over the legislation.

The West Virginia Education Association released a statement Wednesday saying it has sent a formal letter notifying the attorney general of their intention to sue.

"Since the state requires notice of a lawsuit we wanted to go ahead and get that time frame started," said West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee, adding that the group wants to file "as soon as possible."

Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed the measure late last month after a gridlocked special legislative session on education drew heavy protests from teachers. His spokesman declined to comment on the potential lawsuit.

The broad-based measure deals with several aspects of the state's education system, but educators and Democrats fiercely opposed the provision to allow the state's first charters. They argued that the move to install charters was a move driven by outside interests that will steer money away from public schools.

The bill authorizes 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. It also has a pay raise for teachers, among other things.

Lee said the bill contains a number of unconstitutional violations, including the violation of a requirement that bills be limited to a "single object."

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, a Republican who championed charters throughout the legislative process, said he was confident the measure would hold up in court.

"We'll win again in court like we've already won in the legislative process," he said.

The governor called the special session after lawmakers failed to agree on education following a two-day teacher strike over a similar bill in February. He asked legislators to get input from the public before returning.

Public forums on education were then held statewide, at the end of which the Department of Education released a report saying 88% of people who answered a comment card at the meetings opposed the creation of charters.


Tri-State advised to cool off as heat, humidity settle in

MILTON — Waking up to a heat advisory, Tri-State residents had to do what they could Wednesday to escape the thick heat that threatened to bring thunder and lightning as a cap to the day.

Children in Milton found relief at the April Dawn Park sprayground, letting the cool water drench them as they played.

Most of the Tri-State area was under a heat advisory until 7 p.m., with heat index values up to 101 degrees thanks to temperatures in the lower 90s and dewpoints in the lower 70s. The humidity brought the threat of scattered thunderstorms in the evening.

Thursday also will be a hot one, with temps expected to reach a high of 90 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston. There is a 50% to 60% chance of scattered showers and severe thunderstorms during the day and into the night. On Friday, the skies will clear up, with slightly lower temperatures in the high 80s.


Another steep drop for Cabell OD calls
911 calls down 28% so far in 2019, 57% fewer since 'crisis year' 2017

HUNTINGTON — Cabell County's emergency overdose calls continue to decline halfway through 2019.

The number fell 28% through the first six months of the year (406 total calls) compared with the first six months of 2018 (564 total calls), according to data logged by Cabell County EMS.

The drop is even more dramatic compared with 2017, Cabell County's definitive "crisis year" for overdoses. Through six months in 2019, overdose calls have dropped 57% compared with the same period in 2017 (951 total calls) and nearly identical to the first half of 2016 (403 total calls).

The steady decline so far through 2019 comes as a surprise given the already steep drop in overdoses during 2018, said Connie Priddy, Cabell County EMS compliance officer, who keeps the department's data and also organizes the county's Quick Response Team (QRT).

Cabell County paramedics responded to 40% fewer overdoses in 2018 compared

with 2017, but most did not foresee the decline continuing in 2019 — expecting instead for overdose rates to level off.

"I never thought we'd see a drop comparable to 2018 again," Priddy said in a call Wednesday. "We thought maybe we would see a slight drop — like 5% — but not like this."

If the trend holds, Cabell County is on pace to record 819 overdose calls through 2019, a 24% decline from 2018 (1,089) and a 55% drop compared with the record 1,831 calls taken in 2017.

The past three months of 2019 have, however, seen a sharp increase in overdose calls compared with the first three months. Overdoses rose from a combined 147 in January, February and March to a total 259 in April, May and June, statistics show.

What's caused the recent spike isn't clear, Priddy said. There have been social media rumors floated about a "bad batch" of drugs contributing to overdoses locally, but there has been no evidence of that, she added — and not at all comparable to when more powerful fentanyl was introduced in 2016.

As for the overall decline, the increased household use of naloxone — the overdose reversal drug — is contributing to the decline in emergency overdose calls.

Often simply known by the brand name Narcan, those treated for an overdose with naloxone often do not require further medical treatment. Making the drug available at home for the layperson to administer to an overdose victim naturally would have an effect on limiting calls to 911.

Because of that, judging by a decrease in overdose calls alone does not paint a full picture of substance misuse in the county and overdoses will never be truly eliminated, Priddy added.

Another contributing factor is likely more people being referred to long-term treatment. That's the mission of Cabell County's QRT, which personally visits each overdose victim within 72 hours of the event.

Since its inception in December 2017, the QRT has sought out about 1,300 eligible victims, but successfully made contact with about 650. QRT members visit two given addresses for each: their given home address, and the address where the overdose occurred; but the transient nature of many users makes them hard to track down, Priddy said.

Still, the QRT has referred more than 200 people into formalized treatment in their 16 months since becoming active, she continued.

In a prior interview, Priddy estimated that if each of the people called 911 for an overdose three to four times a year, simply getting those people into recovery could eliminate up to 600 overdose calls per year.

OVERDOSE TOTALS THROUGH FIRST SIX MONTHS, 2016-19

2016

January to June: 403

Year total: 1,217

2017

January to June: 951

Year total: 1,831

2018

January to June: 564

Year total: 1,089

2019

January to June: 406

Year total: TBD (on pace for 818)

Source: Cabell CountyEMS

"I never thought we'd see a drop comparable to 2018 again. We thought maybe we would see a slight drop — like 5% — but not like this."

Connie Priddy

Cabell County EMS compliance officer


Fans cheer soccer champs, join players' call for equal pay

Adoring fans packed New York City's Canyon of Heroes on Wednesday amid a blizzard of confetti to praise the World Cup-winning U.S. women's national soccer team as athletic leaders on the field — and as advocates for pay equity off it.

Crowds chanted "USA! USA!" and workers sounded air horns from a construction site as the hourlong parade moved up a stretch of lower Broadway that has long hosted so-called ticker tape parades for world leaders, veterans and hometown sports stars.

Co-captain Megan Rapinoe and her teammates shared a float with Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro. Rapinoe struck her now-famous victory pose, took a swig of champagne and handed the bottle to a fan. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher held the World Cup trophy aloft.

The team sealed its second consecutive tournament win — and record fourth overall — by beating the Netherlands 2-0 on Sunday. For winning the World Cup it will get $4 million from FIFA, the international soccer governing body. Last year's men's World Cup champions, France, got $38 million from FIFA.

The U.S. women's team has sued the U.S. Soccer Federation, accusing it of gender and pay discrimination. The federation will give the women bonuses

about five times smaller than what the men would have earned for winning the World Cup. The case is currently in mediation.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., introduced a bill Tuesday that would bar federal funding for the men's 2026 World Cup until the U.S. Soccer Federation provides equal pay to the women's and men's teams.

Kate Lane, who watched the parade, called the pay gap "massive" for the soccer players and "across the board" for most women.

"Especially in male-dominated professions," said Lane, of Limerick, Ireland. "Women put just as much commitment into their work as their male counterparts."

She's hopeful the younger generation is soaking up the message from the women's team, noting a girl about 7 years old wearing an "Equal Pay" T-shirt.

On Wednesday, New York state expanded a state law that prohibits gender pay discrimination, making it illegal to pay someone less based on characteristics including race, religion, disability or gender identity.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the changes into law in Manhattan just before joining the team for the parade.

The new law, which takes effect in 90 days, also changes a legal standard for pay equity to make it easier for employees to prove discrimination in court.

"Every New Yorker deserves equal pay for equal work regardless of race, sexual orientation, disability or however they choose to identify," said Democratic Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who represents portions of Westchester County and the Bronx and sponsored the bill in the state Senate.

At a City Hall rally after the parade, de Blasio, also a Democrat, honored the team with symbolic keys to the city, saying it "brought us together" and "showed us so much to make us hopeful."

After chants for "Equal pay!" from the crowd, Cordeiro said women "deserve fair and equitable pay. And together I believe we can get this done."