RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — They’re an alternative to public schools: Charter schools allow educators to get creative with how they educate students. The idea is to replicate successful programs in public schools. Currently, there are only nine charter schools in the state. Republicans would like to see even more, using their weekly address last Friday to push the issue.
“Charter schools will provide Virginia’s parents and children with options,” said Senator Mark Obenshain.
As of now, local school boards decide whether to approve the creation of a charter school, but some lawmakers would like to give the state board of education that power. Senator Obenshain and supporters say Virginia is woefully behind its neighbors when it comes to reforming and improving education using charter schools.
“By comparison, Maryland has more than five times as many and North Carolina has 14 times the number of charter schools as Virginia,” said Obenshain.
Meg Gruber with the Virginia Education Association says while her organization is not against charter schools, they argue the decision should be left to localities and not the state, pointing to problems at charter schools across the country.
“I definitely believe they’re looking to fill something that’s not needed,” she said. “There has been selective enrollment of students in charter schools, there has been mismanagement right down to fraud.”
Gruber says it could also take much needed tax dollars from existing classrooms.
“They definitely could have an adverse affect of taking money from the public schools,” Gruber added.
But advocates believe more options will actually drive down costs. If the proposal is approved by lawmakers, then Virginians would ultimately decide if it will go through in a referendum that would appear on the ballot this November.