No roadblocks to Va. charter schools
By Stuart D. Gibson
The Feb. 15 editorial “Charter schools in Virginia” perpetuated a major myth upon which so-called reform efforts are based. The Post claimed that Virginia’s school boards generally oppose charters because they see them as competition. If that were true, Virginia’s charter school law might need revamping. But it’s not true.
Virginia has few charter schools because Virginians generally support the existing public schools. They know that local school boards are open to innovation and don’t see a need to create large parallel structures outside the system, as exists in the District, Arizona, Florida and California — where charters fail at alarming rates.
Since the law was enacted, Virginia’s school boards have considered 16 charter school applications — and granted 10. This reflects thoughtful consideration of each application, not “general opposition” to all. One of the six rejected applications came in Fairfax. There, the superintendent and school board worked with the applicants to create a program within the existing public schools that uses essential elements of the proposal and effectively serves three times as many students for the same money. The parents did not need to create a charter school to achieve the innovations they sought.
The Virginia School Boards Association, which represents all 134 Virginia school boards, helped write the Virginia charter school law. We support that law, in part because it ensures that elected and appointed school boards have the authority to hold charter operators accountable for student learning — just like any other public school.
The writer is a member of the Fairfax County School Board and serves as immediate past president of the Virginia School Boards Association.
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