Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell called for an expansion of public charter schools in his State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday. In his speech, Governor McDonnell stated:
“We still have one of the weakest public charter schools laws in the country. The best public charter school operators in the nation will not come here because we make it nearly impossible for them. We need new charter school laws that demand excellence, set clear standards, and welcome the best charter schools into our communities.”
McDonnell asked lawmakers to pass a constitutional amendment to allow the state Board of Education to authorize charter applicants. He also asked that lawmakers eliminate the requirement that local school boards apply for authorization from the state Board of Education before opening a charter school. “These ideas will make it much easier for proven charter schools to open up,” he said.
Only four public charter schools currently operate in in Virginia, and the Commonwealth ranks 37th out of 42 states and the District of Columbia on our 2012 Model Law report. On the plus side, Virginia’s law is cap-free. However, aside from an absence of formal restrictions on growth, Virginia’s law needs improvement across the board. Most notably, the Virginia charter law could improve by providing additional authorizing options for charter applicants, ensuring authorizer accountability, providing adequate authorizer funding, beefing up the law in relation to the model law’s four quality control components (components six through nine), increasing operational autonomy, and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.
Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell delivers the State of the Commonwealth address before the General Assembly at the State Capitol in Richmond, Va. on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. (Bob Brown | AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch)