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Republican efforts to expand charter schools in Virginia likely to stall in the state Senate

On the campaign trail Republicans talked about expanding charter schools. Now that they've been elected to lead the House of Delegates, they feel they have a mandate to make it happen. But, they'll encounter opposition in the Senate.

One of the chief arguments against charter schools is that they divert taxpayer dollars from public schools. But Republican Delegate Glenn Davis of Virginia Beach says that's simply not true.

"Let's keep in mind that in Virginia, our charter schools are public charter schools. They are public schools," Davis explains. "They are chartered by a governing entity, and they handle public school students. So there will not be any funds utilized that goes to a charter school that is not educating a public school child."

Davis is now chairman of the House Education Committee, and the new Republican majority says expanding charter schools is a major priority of the 2022 General Assembly session. But assuming a bill passes the House, it'll land on the desk of Senator Louise Lucas of Portsmouth. She's chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, and she says she hasn't seen any data showing charter schools are any better than the current public schools.

"If you look at some of the charter schools, you're going to find that some of them are mostly students who are African American. I don't like separating students," she explains. "I think there ought to be a blend. I think students ought to be able to have interaction with students other than students who look just like them."

If a bill expanding charter schools gets to her committee, she says, it's a non-starter.

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.