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Youngkin pushes for charter schools with university partnership proposal and budget amendment

Governor Glenn Youngkin, in front of a group of people assembled before a number of university flags, speaks about his education plan.
Governor Glenn Youngkin
Governor Glenn Youngkin, joined by university leaders and students, speaks about his goals of lessening restrictions on who can establish a charter school.

Governor Glenn Youngkin is pushing for his goal of 20 new charter schools by proposing a $150 million budget amendment and a partnership with Virginia universities.

Charter schools are publicly-funded but privately-run. Currently Virginia law restricts who can start a charter school and requires support from local school boards.

"Our goal is that every student will graduate high school ready to go to college or start a great career. Choice and innovation within public education is vital to achieving that goal," Youngkin said in a statement proclaiming this week "School Choice Week."

Wednesday the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education asked Youngkin’s pick for Secretary of Education about plans for new charter schools. Delegate Danny Marshall, a Republican from Danville, wanted to know where they might be.

Aimee Guidera, Youngkin’s secretary-designate, said she’d defer to legislation making its way through the assembly.

“I think we want to prioritize places and have these be homegrown," she said. "So I think it's not so much the choice of [the] state is doing, but also we want these to be grown in the communities.”

Delegate Delores McQuinn, a Democrat from Richmond, was concerned that charter schools would exacerbate inequities in education.

“When you establish your charter schools, you're going to have to find additional funds and so some become losers and some become winners.”

In an event with university leadership Thursday on lab schools, a type of charter school, Youngkin responded to a question of how he’d ensure schools don’t suffer from the loss of students or funding. In Virginia enrollment helps determine school funding.

Youngkin meets with university leaders on his charter school plan.
Jahd Khalil reports

“This is why the design of the lab school is so important. It is, in fact, part of the public school system. It is not outside the public school system,” Youngkin said. “We fully desire and expect that our lab school initiative will be a fundamental part going forward of our public school education.”

Lab schools can now only be established by universities with a teacher education program.

Delegate Glenn Davis, a Republican from Virginia Beach, is sponsoring legislation to allow any higher-ed program, or private business, to apply to start a lab school.

Youngkin is hoping university presidents will sign onto a memo to support expanding lab schools. It's unclear which universities, several of which had representatives in attendance Thursday, signed onto the memo.

According to Youngkin’s press office the “collaborative agreement” would see universities support the expansion of the law, support the expansion of Virginia’s lab school law, and help develop regional design concepts for lab schools.

Davis’s bill also includes a provision allowing private businesses to apply to start lab schools.

“I do see this opportunity for us to bring businesses who have particular training or long-term needs for a workforce to actually give advice and counsel to what kind of curriculum might best fit for a region in Virginia,” Youngkin said.

Youngkin is also backing a bill to allow the State Board of Education to grant charter school applications.

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

Updated: January 27, 2022 at 5:08 PM EST
This post was updated on Thursday to include Governor Youngkin's event with university leaders.
Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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