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Charter Schools Appear Poised to Change Dramatically Next Year

The upcoming session of the General Assembly may see some major changes in terms of how charter schools work in Virginia.

Virginia currently has only seven charter schools; a very small number compared to District of Columbia, Arizona, Colorado or Florida. Matthew Steinberg at George Mason University's Schar School says part of the reason for that is the current process for submitting a charter application means persuading a local school board to give up money.

"You can imagine the conflicts of interest when approached to open charter schools – what they’re faced with is the very real possibility of giving up resources to support that local charter school," Steinberg explains.

For policy makers, the question is how to change the charter application process to take the decision out of the hands of local school boards. Rachael Deane at the Legal Aid Justice Center says advocates of charter schools have been laying the groundwork for years.

"Who needs to approve charter school applications? What sort of stakeholders need to be involved? And I would expect that we would start to see legislation that might ease that process given the promises that we've heard," Deane says.

Now, even if Republicans are able to get a bill changing the charter school application process out of the House, it would still need to get through a Democratically-controlled state Senate before the governor could put his signature on it.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.