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Virginia governor wants more charter schools in state

Charter schools are freer to experiment with schedules and curricula than regular public schools and are popular with education reformers.

Virginia has three charters, compared with the District, which has 58. None of the Virginia charters are in Northern Virginia, but a fourth is set to open in the Richmond area in the fall.

Charter advocates say the state's restrictive laws have chased away potential applicants, but Lacy said that there has not been much demand for charter schools and that many of the applications have not been "stellar."

Kitty Boitnott, president of the Virginia Education Association, which represents teachers, said her organization is generally supportive of the concept of charter schools but wants to make sure the program results in high-quality schools.

"We will be watching very carefully," she said.

Until 2004, Virginia's local school boards were not even required to read charter applications.

Their decisions are final. Some say that because local districts shoulder most of the burden of paying for schools, they should retain their decision-making power.

Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) has also introduced a bill that would require school boards to explain why they reject a charter school application, instead of just saying no outright, as the law allows.

McDonnell said he hopes that the changes will help Virginia secure $350 million in federal funding through Obama's Race to the Top program. The state applied Jan. 19.

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