Our state’s choice not to allow charter schools could possibly eliminate us from competing for more than $4 billion in federal education grants. This should serve as a clarion call-to-action for education organizations, communities and families to demand policymakers begin drafting a new chartering bill for the next legislative session.
SB-758, the West Virginia Public Charter Schools Act of 2009, was introduced in the last session, cleared the Senate education Committee, stalled before the Senate Finance Committee and was tabled for further study. Efforts to advance similar legislation in the future have continued, including a presentation two weeks ago at an interim meting of the Joint Subcommittee on Education.
Our state would be well-served if the Governor, State Board of Education, State Superintendent of Schools, key policymakers and teacher organizations would sit down and draft a new version of the bill that can be quickly introduced and passed in the 2010 session.
A strong chartering law, coupled with the recently pass School Innovation Zone Act, creates a stimulating ecology of innovation in our public education system. Entrepreneurial, innovative teachers will be empowered by the freedom to try new learning methods and new ideas. For students and their families, it will create new learning choices. For communities, it will create fundamentally different schools that must be held accountable and for our state it is about stimulating change from the smallest school to the largest public school districts. And that allows us to not just compete for federal dollars (and make no mistake about it; we are competing with 49 other states) it gives us what we need to rise to the top of the list.
Chartering legislation and School Innovation Zones are just the beginning of what is needed to create fundamentally different schools in West Virginia.