By Laura Bowman
I’ve been chronicling the issues with charter schools across the country since the fall of 2015 on my Facebook page, Virginia Needs Public Schools, and I think it’s important for Virginians to be aware of these issues because many charter school bills are pending. at the Virginia General Assembly
Passing these bills would be reckless given that Virginia public schools are consistently ranked fourth through sixth in the nation. The bills are a solution looking for a problem, and if we are looking for problems, we need look no further than the states where the floodgates have been opened for charter school expansion.
In these states, charter schools are siphoning off funds from already financially struggling public schools.
They don’t have to hire certified teachers, so the quality of teaching may suffer.
While public schools open their doors to all students every day, charter schools may practice selective enrollment and retention tactics that promote segregation and exclude or push away English language learners, students with special needs and those with individual education plans.
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Frequent reports of charter school fraud, waste and mismanagement of funds in other states should alarm Virginians who expect their taxes to be held accountable.
Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools are not required to provide meals, transportation, or various special education services. In many cases, only families who can afford the time and money can send their children to them.
Additionally, charter schools can suddenly close, leaving families scrambling for other options.
The Virginia Constitution already allows charter schools, and the process to open them is community-driven.
Virginians enjoy local control, a voice in education policy, and easy access to members of their local school board who hold public board meetings, facilitating opportunities for greater understanding and community contribution.
Charter school bills pending in the General Assembly seek to remove the power to establish charter schools from locally elected school boards, thereby transferring that power to the state board and/or regional boards that they establish.
These councils would be made up of political appointees, not community members who care about and understand the needs of their localities.
Virginians don’t want to cede local control of education to outsiders who decide whether or not a charter school can be imposed on their local district, and they deserve transparency on exactly how their tax money is going. used.
Charter schools represent a $57 billion industry in the United States and chains of for-profit charter schools based in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., with shareholders scattered across the country and the world, would like to take over statewide public education and cash in on the children of Virginia.
One such company is Pansophic Learning, located at Tysons Corner and jointly owned by Saudi national Kamal Bahamdan and Safanad Ltd., an Emerati-based investment company.
Under proposed charter school legislation, these foreign investors would be able to make curriculum decisions for state-funded charter schools in Virginia without local input.
Lab schools are under discussion in the state legislature, but lab schools were never intended to be K-12 charter schools; they exist as a laboratory of innovation and practice for schools of education.
Virginia public schools would love the freedom to be even more innovative, but the state uses an onerous education model that relies on inch-deep, mile-wide learning standards, accompanied extremely unpopular and costly standardized tests.
Instead of pushing unproven education reform from charter schools to localities through rushed legislation, members of the Virginia General Assembly should focus on reducing SOL testing at the local level. federal requirement of 17, freeing up time for innovative teaching and much-needed funding. If there are any ideas that charter schools and labs have proven effective in implementing in other states, they should be incorporated into our neighborhood public schools, often at the heart of our communities.
Rather than creating parallel systems of schools in communities that will then fight for already scarce resources, we should better invest in Virginia’s public schools and create more opportunities for innovation and wraparound services within them.
I urge Virginians to contact their representatives in the General Assembly and ask them to oppose all charter school bills of 2022.
Instead, ask them to better support proven education reforms, including small class sizes, full and fair funding, a well-balanced curriculum, certified teachers, and parental engagement.
Bowman is a Roanoke County parent and has served as chair of the Roanoke County Council of PTAs, chair of the Roanoke County Public Schools Parent Advisory Council, chair of the Prevention Council of Roanoke, and board member of Parents Across America.