Lawmakers look at educational changes

Included in a major public education improvement bill passed by the state Senate are provisions allowing a few charter schools in West Virginia. Opponents of the idea, including the three unions representing many school employees, were furious.

Now, another multifaceted education bill, HB 206, has been introduced in the House of Delegates. Union leaders and some liberal legislators are angry about that, too.

Allowing charter schools to receive taxpayers’ money that otherwise could go to public schools is not just a bad idea, it is dangerous, opponents insist. Diverting money from public schools would do substantial damage to them, the critics insist.

Well, West Virginians don’t want to be outliers, of course.

But by permitting charter schools, our state would only be joining the mainstream, finally. Forty-three states already authorize charters. Only West Virginia, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Vermont do not have them.

In fact, states with the highest-rated public school systems in the nation have had charters, some for many years. Massachusetts, viewed by many as having the country’s best schools, authorized charters in 1993. Interestingly enough, the action was part of a comprehensive education improvement bill.

Massachusetts has 82 public charter schools, with 46,954 students enrolled. That almost exactly one-fourth the total number of students in all of West Virginia’s public schools.

Authorizing charters did not devastate the Bay State’s public schools, or those in more than 40 other states.

What do people in those states — the vast majority of Americans — know about charters that opponents of them in our state do not want people to understand?

Once again: States where public education seems to be doing a better job than in West Virginia have charter schools. Why shouldn’t our state benefit from them, too?


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