Why Virginia Needs Charter Schools

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In opposing charter school expansion in Virginia, the Virginia Education Association's Kitty J. Boitnott suggested researching why charter schools work in some places and not others ["Charter Schools Aren't the Solution for Virginia," Close to Home, July 12].

Actually, research shows that the states with the most charter schools have either multiple authorizers or a strong appeals process; states with the fewest charters allow only local school boards to approve charters. In short, the way to stifle innovative and effective charters has been to allow only one authorizer -- exactly what the VEA advocates.

Particularly disappointing was Ms. Boitnott's preoccupation with arguing what's best for bureaucracies, rather than what's best for kids. She cited a recent Rand study but ignored its conclusion that charter high school students are eight to 10 percentage points more likely to enroll in college than their traditional public school counterparts.

Last year, more than 17,000 Virginians did not graduate on time. Among at-risk students, nearly 30 percent of students disappeared between ninth and 12th grades. In places such as Petersburg, more than 40 percent of all students dropped out.

Quality charter schools have demonstrated effectiveness in helping those students succeed. Shouldn't the teachers union focus on bringing quality charters into the commonwealth, rather than finding new excuses to keep them out?


Vice President

Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy


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