Virginia

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1998
Year Charter School Law Was Enacted
8
Estimated Number of Charter Schools in 2017-18
1,200
Estimated Number of Charter School Students in 2017-18
94
out of
240
Total Score

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While Virginia’s law does not contain a cap on public charter school growth, it allows only district authorizers and provides little autonomy, insufficient accountability, and inequitable funding.

Virginia’s law needs improvement across the board. Potential starting points include expanding authorizing options, beefing up the law’s application, oversight, and renewal requirements, increasing operational autonomy, ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities, and ensuring transparency regarding educational service providers.

Since Virginia does not allow full-time virtual charter schools, the highest score possible is 228 for the remaining 20 components. However, we converted this score to one that is comparable to the states that allow full-time virtual charter schools. Virginia received 89 out of the 228 points  available for the remaining 20 components, or 39 percent. We then multiplied the total points possible for all 21 components (240) by 39 percent to get a score comparable to the other states (94).

Component Scores

Are there caps on the growth of charter schools in this state?

Virginia law does not place any caps on charter school growth.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
1A
No numeric or geographic limits are placed on the number of charter public schools or students.
N/A
1B
If caps exist, there is room for growth.

Are a variety of charter schools allowed?

Virginia law allows new start-ups and public school conversions.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
2A
New startups.
Yes
2B
Public school conversions.

Are non-district authorizers available to which charter applicants may directly apply?

Virginia law only allows local school boards to serve as authorizers (either independently or together in the case of regional charter schools). Statute requires that all applications besides those initiated by one or more local school boards must first be reviewed by the state board of education to determine if the application meets approval criteria established by the state board. However, only local school boards are subsequently allowed to approve applications.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
3A
The state allows an applicant anywhere in the state to apply directly to a non-district authorizer(s).

Is an authorizer and overall program accountability system required?

Virginia law requires authorizers to submit annual evaluations of any public charter schools to the state board of education. It requires the state board to review the evaluations against any state board regulations and policies waived for the public charter schools to determine the efficacy of such waivers and whether the public charter schools accomplished established goals and objectives.
Virginia law also requires authorizers to submit annually to the state board a comparison of the performance of public charter school students and students enrolled in the regular schools of such relevant school division and a report of the number of students enrolled in such public charter schools at the end of the school year. It requires the state board to report annually its findings and evaluations of any public charter schools established, as well as the number of charters denied, to the governor and the general assembly.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
4A
Registration process for school boards to affirm their interest in authorizing.
N/A
4B
Application process for other eligible authorizing entities (except a state charter schools commission).
Yes
4C
Authorizer submission of annual report.
No
4D
The ability for the state to conduct a review of an authorizer’s performance.
No
4E
The ability for the state to sanction an authorizer for poor performance, including suspending an authorizer’s authority to approve new schools.
Yes
4F
Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

Is there adequate authorizer funding?

Virginia law provides that a public charter school may negotiate and contract with a school division, the governing body of a public institution of higher education, or any third party for the use of a school building and grounds, the operation and maintenance thereof, and the provision of any service, activity, or undertaking which the public charter school is required to perform in order to carry out the educational program described in its charter contract. It also provides that any services for which a public charter school contracts with a school division shall not exceed the division's costs to provide such services.
Virginia law also provides that funding and service agreements between local school boards and public charter schools must not provide a financial incentive or constitute a financial disincentive to the establishment of a public charter school, including any regional public charter school.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
5A
A uniform statewide formula that guarantees annual authorizer funding that is not subject to annual legislative appropriations.
No
5B
Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.
Yes
5C
Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.
Yes
5D
Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

Are there transparent charter application, review, and decisionmaking processes?

Virginia law sets forth basic required elements for all charter applications, as well as additional requirements specific to conversions.
Virginia law requires the state board of education and all local school boards to post their application and review procedures on their websites and to establish a procedure for public notice and for receiving comments on any applications. However, it does not require them to include their approval criteria as part of the procedures that are posted nor to conduct an in-person interview as part of their evaluation of each application. Statute requires the state board of education to first review all applications to determine whether they meet the approval criteria established by the state board.

If a local school board denies an application, state law provides that it must provide the reasons in writing and post that information on its website. It also requires the local school board to submit documentation to the state board of education as to the rationale for the local school board’s denial of the charter school application.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
6A
Application elements for all schools.
Yes
6B
Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.
No
6C
Additional application elements specific to using educational service providers.
No
6D
Additional application elements specific to replications.
Some
6E
Requirement for thorough evaluation of each application, including an in-person interview and a public meeting.
Some
6F
Application approval criteria.
Some
6G
All charter approval or denial decisions made in a public meeting with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

Are performance-based charter contracts required?

Virginia law requires performance-based charter contracts being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the management committee of the charter school and the authorizer.

The law requires the contract to clearly sets forth the academic and operational performance expectations and measures by which the public charter school will be judged and the administrative relationship between the local school board and public charter school, including each party's rights and duties.

Virginia law provides that the contract between the public charter school and its authorizer must reflect all agreements regarding the release of the public charter school from school division policies. It provides that such contract between the public charter school and its authorizer must reflect all requests for release of the public charter school from state regulations.

Virginia law provides that a charter may be approved for a period not to exceed five school years.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
7A
Being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.
Yes
7B
Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.
Yes
7C
Defining academic, financial, and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework.
No
7D
Providing an initial term of five operating years.

Are there comprehensive charter school monitoring and data collection processes?

Virginia law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for comprehensive charter school monitoring and data collection processes.
Virginia law requires authorizers to submit annual evaluations of any public charter schools to the state board of education. It also requires authorizers to submit annually to the state board a comparison of the performance of public charter school students and students enrolled in the regular schools of such relevant school division and a report of the number of students enrolled in such public charter schools at the end of the school year.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
8A
Required annual school performance reports.
No
8B
Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., generally accepted accounting principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).
No
8C
Authorizer authority to conduct oversight activities.
No
8D
Authorizer notification to its schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.
No
8E
Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.
No
8F
Authorizer may not request duplicative data submission from its charter schools and may not use performance framework to create cumbersome reporting requirements.

Are there clear processes for renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions?

Virginia law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for clear processes for renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions.
Virginia law requires charter schools seeking renewal to apply for it. The law provides the following renewal application requirements: a report on the progress of the public charter school in achieving the goals, objectives, program and performance standards for students, and such other conditions and terms as its authorizer may require upon granting initial approval of the charter application; and a financial statement, on forms prescribed by the state board, that discloses the costs of administration, instruction, and other spending categories for the public charter school and that has been concisely and clearly written to enable its authorizer and the public to compare such costs to those of other schools or comparable organizations.

Virginia law provides that authorizers can revoke a charter contract if they determine that a school violates conditions, standards or procedures established in the charter application, fails to make reasonable progress towards academic performance standards, fails to meet sufficient fiscal management standards, or violates applicable law.

Virginia law provides that a charter may be renewed for a period not to exceed five school years.

If a local school board revokes or fails to renew a charter contract, state law provides that it must provide the reasons in writing and post that information on its website. It also requires the local school board to submit documentation to the state board of education as to the rationale for the local school board’s denial or revocation of the charter school application. It does not require these decisions be made in a public meeting, though.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
9A
Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.
Yes
9B
Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.
No
9C
Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.
No
9D
Ability to have a differentiated process for renewal of high-performing charter schools.
Yes
9E
Authorizers must use clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.
No
9F
Authorizers must ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract.
No
9G
Requirement that authorizers close chronically low-performing charter schools unless exceptional circumstances exist.
Yes
9H
Authorizers must have the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.
No
9I
Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or nonrenewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.
No
9J
Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).
Some
9K
All charter renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions must be made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for nonrenewals and revocations in writing.
No
9L
Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.
No
9M
Any transfer of charter contracts from one authorizer to another are only allowed if they are approved by the state.

Is there transparency regarding educational service providers?

Virginia law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for educational service providers.
Virginia law allows a charter school to contract with any third party for the provision of any service activity or undertaking which the school is required to perform in order to carry out the educational program described in its charter.

The law provides that the charter application must provide disclosure of any ownership or financial interest in the public charter school, by the charter applicant and the governing body, administrators, and other personnel of the proposed public charter school, and a requirement that the successful applicant and the governing body, administrators, and other personnel of the public charter school shall have a continuing duty to disclose such interests during the term of any charter.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
10A
All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and nonprofit) are allowed to operate all or parts of schools.
No
10B
The charter application requires (1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, and (2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.
No
10C
A performance contract is required between the independent charter school board and the ESP, with such contract approved by the school’s authorizer.
Some
10D
School governing boards operate as entities completely independent of any ESP, individuals compensated by an ESP are prohibited from serving as voting members on such boards, and existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.
No
10E
Provides that charter school governing boards must have access to ESP records necessary to oversee the ESP contract.
No
10F
An ESP must annually provide information to its charter school governing board on how that ESP spends public funding it receives when the ESP is performing a public function under applicable state law.
No
10G
Requires that similar criminal history record checks and fingerprinting requirements applicable to other public schools shall also be mandatory for on-site employees of ESPs who regularly come into contact with students.

Are the schools fiscally and legally autonomous with independent charter school boards?

Virginia law states that a charter school must be run by a management committee (comprised of parents, teachers, and representatives of community sponsors) that administers and manages the school in a manner agreed upon by the applicant and the local school board. Virginia law also requires charter schools to enter into charter contracts with their authorizer and allows charter schools to enter into contracts for services.
According to the law, however, charter school personnel are considered employees of the local school board granting the charter and are granted the same employment benefits in accordance with the district’s personnel policies (unless the local school board allows charter school personnel to be employees of the charter school governing board), and the charter school remains a part of the school district LEA that authorized it.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
11A
Fiscally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to receive and disburse funds; incur debt; and pledge, assign, or encumber assets as collateral).
Some
11B
Legally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to enter into contracts and leases, sue and be sued in their own names, and acquire real property).
Some
11C
Independent school governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

Are there clear student enrollment and lottery procedures?

According to the law, no public charter school shall discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, gender, national origin, religion, ancestry, or need for special education services or any other unlawful basis, and each public charter school shall be subject to any court- ordered desegregation plan in effect for the school division. The law also provides that no public charter school shall discriminate against any student on the basis of limited proficiency in English and that each public charter school shall provide students who have limited proficiency in English with appropriate services designed to teach such students English and the general curriculum, consistent with federal civil rights laws. Virginia law requires a conversion charter school to give students who attend the school and the siblings of such students the opportunity to enroll in advance of the lottery process.
Virginia law requires that enrollment in a public charter school is to be conducted via a lottery process on a space available basis.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
12A
Open enrollment to any student in the state.
Yes
12B
Anti-discrimination provisions regarding admissions.
Some
12C
Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions and for prior-year students within charter schools.
Yes
12D
Lottery requirements.

Is there automatic exemption from many state and district laws and regulations?

Instead of providing automatic exemptions from most state and district laws and regulations, Virginia law allows charter schools to ask the district for waivers of district policies and to have the district ask the state board of education for waivers from state regulations. It also provides that local school boards may allow charter school personnel to be employees of the local school board or the charter school governing board.
Virginia law requires all charter school teachers to be certified.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
13A
Exemptions from all laws, except those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information, and generally accepted accounting principles.
No
13B
Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

Is there an automatic collective bargaining exemption?

In Virginia, it is illegal for public school teachers to engage in collective bargaining. However, charter school personnel are considered employees of the local school board granting the charter and are granted the same employment benefits in accordance with the district’s personnel policies (unless the local school board allows charter school personnel to be employees of the charter school governing board).According to the law, charter school personnel are considered employees of the local school board granting the charter and are granted the same employment benefits in accordance with the district’s personnel policies (unless the local school board allows charter school personnel to be employees of the charter school governing board).

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
N/A
14A
Charter schools authorized by nonlocal board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements.
Some
14B
Charter schools authorized by local boards are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

Are multischool charter contracts and/or multicharter contract boards allowed?

Virginia law is silent regarding these arrangements.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
15A
Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.
No
15B
Hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

Is there eligibility and access to extracurricular and interscholastic activities?

Virginia law is silent about charter eligibility and access.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
16A
Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all extracurricular and interscholastic activities available to noncharter public school students and employees.
No
16B
Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extracurricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at noncharter public schools.

Is there clear identification of special education responsibilities?

Virginia law provides that the proportionate share of state and federal resources allocated for students with disabilities and school personnel assigned to special education programs be directed to public charter schools enrolling such students.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
17A
Clarity regarding which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services.
Yes
17B
Clarity regarding the flow of federal, state, and local special education funds to the designated LEA.
No
17C
Clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools (in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs).
No
17D
Clarity that charter schools have access to all regional and state services and supports available to traditional districts.

Is there equitable operational funding and equal access to all state and federal categorical funding?

Virginia law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for equitable operational and categorical funding. There is no evidence of the amount of funds charters receive versus districts.
Virginia law allows a local school board to establish by contract an agreement stating the conditions for funding the public charter school. The law also provides that the funding shall be commensurate with the average school-based costs of educating the students in the existing schools in the district unless the cost of operating the charter school is less than that average school-based cost.

Virginia law requires the proportionate share of moneys allocated under other federal or state categorical aid programs be directed to public charter schools serving students eligible for such aid, but does not provide clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
18A
Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.
Some
18B
Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.
No
18C
Funding for transportation similar to school districts.
No
18D
Annual report offering district and charter school funding comparisons and including annual recommendations to the legislature for any needed equity enhancements.

Is there equitable access to capital funding and facilities?

Virginia law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for equitable access to capital funding and facilities.
Virginia law allows charter schools to access financing through the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority.

Virginia law provides that, as negotiated by contract, the local school board or the relevant school boards, in the case of regional public charter schools, may allow a public charter school to use vacant or unused properties or real estate owned by the school board. In no event shall a public charter school be required to pay rent for space that is deemed available, as negotiated by contract, in school division facilities. All other costs for the operation and maintenance of the facilities used by the public charter school shall be subject to negotiation between the public charter school and the school division or, in the case of a regional public charter school, between the regional public charter school and the relevant school divisions.

Virginia law provides that a public charter school may negotiate and contract with a school division, the governing body of a public institution of higher education, or any third party for the use of a school building and grounds, the operation and maintenance thereof, and the provision of any service, activity, or undertaking which the public charter school is required to perform in order to carry out the educational program described in its charter. Any services for which a public charter school contracts with a school division shall not exceed the division's costs to provide such services.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Facilities Funding
No
19A
A per-pupil facilities allowance that annually reflects actual average district capital costs.
No
19B
A state grant program for charter school facilities.
No
19C
Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to noncharter public schools.
Access to Public Space
No
19D
A requirement for districts to provide school district space or funding to charter schools if the majority of that schools’ students reside in that district.
No
19E
Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.
Access to Financing Tools
No
19F
A state loan program for charter school facilities.
Yes
19G
Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allowing charter schools to have their own bonding authority
No
19H
Pledging the moral obligation of the state to help charter schools obtain more favorable bond financing terms.
No
19I
The creation and funding of a state charter school debt reserve fund.
No
19J
The inclusion of charter schools in school district bonding and mill levy requests.
No
19K
A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for charter school facilities.
Other
No
19L
Charter schools allowed to contract at or below fair market value with a school district, a college or university, or any other public or for-profit or nonprofit private entity for the use of facility for a school building.
No
19M
Certain entities allowed to provide space to charter schools within their facilities under their preexisting zoning and land use designations.
No
19N
Charter school facilities exempt from ad valorem taxes and other assessment fees not applicable to other public schools.

Is there access to relevant employee retirement systems?

Virginia law requires participation in the relevant employee retirement systems.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
20A
Charter schools have access to relevant state retirement systems available to other public schools.
No
20B
Charter schools have the option to participate (i.e., not required).

Are there provisions for full-time virtual charter schools?

Virginia law does not allow full-time virtual charter schools.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
N/A
21A
An authorizing structure whereby full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from more than one district may be approved only by an authorizer with statewide chartering jurisdiction and authority, full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from one school district may be authorized by that school district, and a cap is placed on the total amount of funding that an authorizer may withhold from a full-time virtual charter school.
N/A
21B
Legally permissible criteria and processes for enrollment based on the existence of supports needed for student success.
N/A
21C
Enrollment level provisions that establish maximum enrollment levels for each year of a charter contract, with any increases in enrollment from one year to the next based on whether the school meets its performance requirements.
N/A
21D
Accountability provisions that include virtual-specific goals regarding student enrollment, attendance, engagement, achievement, truancy, and attrition.
N/A
21E
Funding levels per student based on costs proposed and justified by the operators.
N/A
21F
Performance-based funding whereby full-time virtual charter schools are funded via a performance-based funding system based on meeting the accountability performance provisions.