To the Editor:
In an opinion piece earlier this week “Words of caution from experience in failed charter system,” author Dennis Smith made several unfounded assertions about public charter schools, and readers deserve to hear the full truth.
For far too long, West Virginia students have been shortchanged by the state’s public education system. On the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), less than 33 percent of students scored at or above proficiency in reading and just 35 percent of students scored at or above proficiency in math. To close the achievement gap, West Virginia educators deserve every tool in the toolbox to help meet the needs of their students.
Additionally, while not all students are a good fit for online education, virtual charter schools provide a critical option for students for whom a brick-and-mortar public school is simply not working. If the West Virginia law passes intact, the state will have the strongest full-time virtual accountability in the country. Drawing comparisons to Ohio’s virtual charter sector is a false equivalency.
It’s important to note that charter schools have greater accountability and scrutiny over their finances and academic results than district public schools. As public schools, charter schools are required to be financially transparent and undergo financial audits. Charter schools have a level of oversight beyond district public schools because they are accountable to their authorizers. Charter school authorizers are required to approve and renew only those charter schools that have demonstrated they can improve student performance in a fiscally and organizationally sound manner. If they don’t produce these results, their authorizer has the power to close or not renew them.
West Virginia can give families a choice in their child’s public education. To miss this opportunity would be a disservice to West Virginia students.
Director, State Advocacy & Policy
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
The above letter was submitted to the Charleston Gazette-Mail on February 4, 2019.