Archive for June 22nd, 2010
The Governor suffered a setback in that plan when the Commonwealth was forced to opt out of the federal “race to the top” program, but that has not kept him from moving forward. On Tuesday, McDonnell signed into law an expansive piece of legislation, broadly supported by both parties that is designed to specifically expand the reach of public charter schools.
McDonnell chose to sign the legislation at the newest charter school to open in Virginia, the Patrick Henry School of Arts and Sciences. While Patrick Henry has often been used by the Governor as an example of expanding educational opportunities, it is also provides numerous examples of the struggle and controversies surrounding their growth.
While parents have been eager to sign their kids up to attend the school, it has been dogged by a less than enthusiastic school board concerned that its opening will draw resources away from other schools. In addition to the political strife, many parents whose kids were not picked by the lottery system used to select the inaugural class, are upset that the access is limited.
Dr. Patricia Wright is McDonnell’s State Superintendent of Instruction and she told me that those concerns will fade away once parents and students see the results charter schools provide. “Charter schools in Virginia are public schools,” said Dr. Wright. “We should be open to new ideas.”
Wright said that the charter school model is not designed to pluck out students who are already succeeding in the traditional public schools and put them into a new environment. Its to help students already struggling, and try a new approach that could eventually end the traditional school setting.
“The innovations that are being tested out in these schools could potentially be implemented in the regular schools setting or could prompt other charter schools to open up,” she said.
And that gamble, that charter schools will lead to groundbreaking innovations, is what McDonnell is banking on to convince the state legislature and school boards across the Commonwealth that more charter schools should be opened. That according to Dr. Wright should alleviate the issue of access.
“As the charter school movement grows in Virginia there will be more opportunities for children to attend these type of innovative programs.”
But the only way the movement grows is if success is definable and occurs quickly.
You can see my complete interview with Dr. Wright from NBC12 First at 4 below:
(note: the above photo Courtesy of Michaele White, Governor’s Photographer)
You can see the full release from the Governor’s office on the charter school legislation after the jump: