Sunday, December 6, 2015

Flea Flicker: Should state be able to approve charter schools in Virginia? - Daily Press

Should state be able to approve charter schools in Virginia? - Daily Press:

Should state be able to approve charter schools in Virginia?

The Charter School Approval Flea Flicker 
Should Virginia amend its constitution to allow the state — not just local school boards — the authority to establish charter schools?
That question could be before voters in a November 2016 referendum.
The issue has the potential to become a heated one in the upcoming General Assemblysession, pitting school boards and an education establishment who say they want to protect existing public schools against those who say they want to bring more options to parents.
Charter schools — which operate with public money but hold some autonomy from local school divisions — have grown in number across the country in recent years.
But while many states have hundreds of charter schools, Virginia has only nine — seven now operating and two on the way. That's less than 0.5 percent of the 1,823 schools statewide, 17 years after charter schools were first allowed in the Old Dominion.
That's a far lower rate than the national average.
In 2014, there were 6,440 charter schools in the United States, or 7.2 percent of the country's 89,775 public schools, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an advocacy group. The majority of those, the alliance said, are operated by independent, locally led groups, while others are run by nonprofit organizations or for-profit companies.
A 'pro-kid' idea?
Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, Del. Robert B. Bell, R-Charlottesville, and Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin County, are pushing the legislation to hold the referendum. They contend school boards have been unduly resistant to charter schools, and that a second approval route is needed.
The proposed constitutional amendment says the State Board of Education "shall have the authority to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth." That would be an alternative to the current system, in which school boards alone hold that power.
"This is all about kids and providing a high-quality education," Obenshain said. "When we get down to it, this is one avenue we have to improve the quality of the education that we are providing. … This is not a Republican idea. This is not a Democrat idea. This is a pro-kid, pro-family, and pro-teacher idea."
Though many schools do a good job, he said, "there are jurisdictions in Virginia where we are just failing our kids … and we have a screaming need for education reform. This drops a lifeline to parents and children, and frankly to a lot of teachers."
Opposition exists
Sen. John Miller, D-Newport News, for one, said he's opposed to the amendment, saying local school boards should retain control over the creation of charter schools within their jurisdictions.
"The operation of public schools is in the purview of the local school boards, not the state," Miller said. It's the elected local boards, he said, who know their communities' needs best.
The amendment, Miller added, would do "an end run around the localities," and runs counter to longstanding provisions of Virginia's constitution favoring local decision-making. "It is just not the direction that we need to go to improve public education in Virginia," he said.
The minuscule number of charter schools in Virginia, Miller said, "really speaks to how well public schools are doing" statewide. "There's not a demand for the charter schools Should state be able to approve charter schools in Virginia? - Daily Press: