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Decision Virginia Archive 8/08- 7/12

Wright: “Charter schools in Virginia are public schools”

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It is a hallmark issue of the McDonnell agenda. The expansion of charter schools is something Bob McDonnell cares deeply about and its something he has rooted his education policy in.

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:

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Governor McDonnell Highlights Successful Charter School Legislation

-Ceremonially Signs Bill Putting Virginia in the Vanguard of the National Charter School Movement: Legislation Part of Governor’s “Opportunity to Learn” Education Reform Package

New Virginia Laws Take Effect July 1st

RICHMOND – Nine days before Virginia’s new laws take effect, Governor Bob McDonnell today ceremonially signed legislation that will facilitate the expansion of high-quality charter schools in the Commonwealth. The legislation, HB1390, sponsored by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Woodbridge), and SB737, sponsored by Senator Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg), was part of the Governor’s 2010 “Opportunity to Learn” education reform legislative agenda. Governor McDonnell was joined at today’s event by Delegate Lingamfelter and Delegate Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg), who was a chief-co-patron of the House measure.  Virginia Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Pat Wright, members of the General Assembly and other education leaders also attended today’s ceremony.  The bill signing took place at Patrick Henry School of Sciences and Arts, a charter school scheduled to open in Richmond this fall.

The Governor’s charter school legislation signed today significantly improves the application and review process for public charter school applicants.  It requires the public charter school applicant to submit its proposed charter application to the Board of Education for review, comment and a recommendation for approval or disapproval prior to the submission of the application to the local school board.  This will help expedite meritorious applications and provide uniform statewide input to get good applications approved.  The bill also allows for a public charter school applicant whose application was denied, or a grantee whose charter was revoked or failed to renew, to receive written reasons for such denial and thereafter petition the local school board for reconsideration.  The process for reconsideration will include an opportunity for public comment and technical assistance from the state Department of Education.  The final decision still rests with the local school board.

Speaking at today’s bill signing, Governor McDonnell remarked, “A child’s educational opportunities should be determined by her intellect and work ethic, not her zip code.  That is what our successful ‘Opportunity to Learn’ education reform agenda was all about, expanding opportunities for students to learn in the environments that suit them best. One way we can bring more opportunities to our young people, especially at-risk students, is through the expansion of high quality charter schools, and that is why I am so pleased to sign this legislation today.”

Governor McDonnell continued, “Charter schools are public schools with the freedom to innovate in educating and preparing our students for the workforce.  Nationally, charter schools are becoming a common and welcome part of the educational landscape. Unfortunately, that has not been the case in Virginia. Out of the 4600 charter schools educating children nationwide, only three can be found in the Commonwealth. Patrick Henry School, where we are today, will be our fourth. The legislation signed today will strengthen Virginia’s charter school law by providing more assistance and guidance to charter applicants.  The opportunity for review and assistance will broaden the understanding for what is needed to open a high-quality, successful charter school in Virginia, and I am optimistic that this legislation is a positive step towards seeing more high quality charter schools open their doors in communities all across Virginia.  Charter schools are a positive and rewarding alternative for parents and children seeking more options in education, and they will play an important role in the future of public education in our Commonwealth.”

Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, chief patron of HB1390, also noted, “I am pleased by the success of the education reform initiatives passed during this year’s General Assembly session.  Each measure, from charter schools to virtual schools and college lab partnerships, passed with broad bipartisan support.  Expanding charter schools in Virginia will provide access to greater innovation in education for our students.  It’s critical that we work to provide more opportunities for Virginia’s school-age children to receive the high-quality education needed to succeed in today’s global society.”

Delegate Rosalyn Dance, chief co-patron of HB1390, commented, “All children in Virginia deserve a first class education.  While the number of unaccredited schools in Virginia has decreased, we should never tolerate the status quo when it comes to demanding excellence for all of Virginia’s children, regardless of where they live. I am pleased that we have aligned ourselves with President Obama’s nationwide movement to increase charter schools and implement true education reform.  The legislation signed today will result in more quality charter schools in Virginia and provide challenging, innovative and quality learning environments for our young people.”

You can read more about the Governor’s full “Opportunity to Learn” education reform agenda here.

For more information on HB1390, click here.

For more information on SB737, click here.

Written by Ryan Nobles

June 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm

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