CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Those for and against allowing public charter schools in West Virginia made their arguments Wednesday during a public hearing at the Capitol. Lawmakers are preparing to take up legislation that would make West Virginia the 43rd state to permit charters.

Charter schools are allowed to operate independent of a school district, giving teachers, administrators and parents more local control. In return, the schools are held more accountable for their results.

Research about the success of charter schools has been mixed. However, a 2013 Stanford University study of 26 states found charter schools “are benefiting low-income, disadvantaged and special education students.”

The bill that will be taken up will allow for public charter schools. They would be funded by tax dollars based on student enrollment. There would be no tuition and schools would have no special entrance requirements.

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, “more than a quarter of the Best High Schools in America, according to Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report, are charter schools.”

However, the charter concept has its critics, especially among the teacher unions, which represent only a small portion of charter school teachers.

“There’s definitely a disconnect between what the well-oiled PR machine is championing and what is actually happening in the charter sector,” Bob Tate, senior policy analyst with the National Education Association, said on the organization’s website. “Questions over accountability only scratch the surface.”

The number of charter school is increasing nationally with nearly 6,500 charter schools teaching 2.5 million students.

Here’s a sampling of some of the comments by those who spoke in favor of charter schools at Wednesday’s hearing:

Monty Warner, high school teacher: “I’ve seen many great teachers retire or leave our profession because they grew tired of the over bureaucratized, over centralized things that have bedeviled our school system and forced us to fall behind.”

Mark Saad, West Virginia Chamber of Commerce: “West Virginia’s public schools, by all objective measures, are low performing and in many instances are failing.”

Matt Walker, parent: “Every West Virginia community deserves to choose a public charter school or not and to choose to work toward something that can thrive and blossom into something wonderful and successful that they can be proud of.”

Here are some comments from those who spoke against charter schools:

Christine Campbell, President of the American Federation of Teachers West Virginia: “I haven’t heard overwhelming support from West Virginia educators, parents or community members regarding charter schools. Given our need to improve student achievement, we shouldn’t gamble with our children’s future.”

Tega McGuffin, high school teacher: “When you are pulling tax money away from public schools and funneling into charter schools, what are you doing? You are weakening the public school system and, thus, hurting the kids.”

Greg Crewey, McDowell County teacher: “Charter schools might be the best solution for the kids that get to go to them, but they are not the best solution for all kids, and that’s the difficulty that we face.”

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Comments

  • Skorf

    I am a WV native living in DE where charter schools are numerous. Charter schools have been in DE for a long time, and the public schools have not improved. Why not improve the public schools? Charter schools give the politicians and school bureaucrats an easy solution. That way they can continue to do nothing to fix the school system.

  • WVUAPRN

    Charter schools in WV will provide choice which means competition. When you offer a choice, suddenly our schools will be on their "A" game and I am betting our grades and test scores will improve nationally. Are we not all tired of our schools being last or close to last on performance?? NO not in WV....we reward educators with raises for our sub-par performance!

    • Get smart

      Its not the teachers, its the students. We have parents who are uneducated and they pass that down to the child. Learning starts at home, and is finished in school. We will not have better grades or test scores untill teachers get help from home, and not hinderence from people like you.

  • Tom m,

    Nope period.

  • Wayne Yonkelowitz

    Not exactly sure why the need for charter schools? If it is a matter that they will have more local control and can operate independently then why doesn't the State just stop trying to control local schools and turn control over to them?
    How will they be held accountable? If they fail to meet to the standards, what happens to the school and what happens to their students?
    If there is no tuition and no special entrance requirements than how does this differ from public school?
    So if lawmakers what charter schools, they just need to get their noses and hands out of the public schools, turn control over to the local districts, teachers, administrators and parents, then you will have your charter schools.

  • John James, Director of Youth Reporting Center

    I have been a proponent for Charter Schools for a very long time. As a child I struggled academically. I was in special education throughout my elementary years. With the persistence of my mother, teachers and my will to succeed I graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice and a Minor in Sociology. Therefore I am a product of benefiting from the public school system. However we are dealing with a different type of student these days. They are in need of more out of the box learning environment. Charter schools would allow that student who is talented in the arts, engineering, media, science, theater and music to receive an education while focusing on something they love. I would love to be the Principle of a Charter school of the Arts.

    • susanf1218

      That would be PRINCIPAL of a charter school. You support the PRINCIPLE of charter schools. Just a little grammar tutorial from someone who is the product of a public school education.

      • John

        Thanks for the correction. I have never been a great speller or grammatically correct. I would like to be the Principal

  • Jimmy

    Don't forget increasing the starting wages of Teachers to 43K.

  • 2XLPatriot

    Something needs to be done to fix our failed education system. That's right, I said "Failed", not "Failing." Charter schools operating independently and outside of the political hum-drum and quagmires of unions, surely would have to have beneficial outcomes on our children. Our education system is graduating students who fall well below the mark. College graduates who can't read at a 5th grade level or balance a check book, but they left high school with a 4.0 GPA. A more practical, realistic curriculum to teach kids the reality of everyday life. Reading, writing and arithmetic. Teach high school students how to do taxes, balance a check book, cook a meal, set a budget and other, more everyday applications.

    West Virginia has no charter schools and we fall well below the national average. Do states with charter schools top that list? If 1/4 of the top high schools in the country are charter schools, somebody, somewhere is doing something right. Time to get with the times West Virginia. Give our students a chance instead of fluffing the teachers union political interests.

    • Gary K.

      They did teach those type of skills. But the holy roller right is always objecting to what is being taught. They think they know better. Well they don't. Fund public schools. That is the key to learning.

    • John James, Director of Youth Reporting Center

      I agree. Seventeen in the 12th grade with 9th grade credits. Seventeen in the 12th grade with 4 credits, we have a major problem. How does this happen?

  • T Graves

    I have taught in states with Charter Schools and I have seen a FEW successful models. In theory the principal is good, but Charter Schools kick any behavior students out and back to public schools for us to deal with - this dilutes the well behaved and concentrates students with difficulties. Charter Schools rarely can handle a special ed student and meet their needs - again public school has no choice and special ed students require more resources. My friends who went the Charter School route ended up leaving, because of teacher turn over and poor management. And on top of this I have had numerous students who show up for school and the Charter doors are locked and they come back to public schools - and they are 6 months to a year behind their peers. Good idea in theory but results are not worth the effort.

    • susanf1218

      "In theory the PRINCIPLE is good", not PRINCIPAL.

  • wvman75

    All we should all realize is that our public schools are "chartering" a course to mediocrity. Only a union and people who want more federal control of our schools feel orherwise. The proof is evident for anyone who opens their eyes. Money isn't the problem. Good teachers have never gone into the profession for money.

    • wvman75

      "Otherwise". My mistake.

  • Wow

    Tony, I'm sure Hoppy knows how to spell public. My question is, did you know what he ment. If you did why correct him six times.

    • Tony

      Oh, and you spelled "meant" wrong. It's meant.

    • Tony

      Because of the nature of the word. It's glaring.

  • Tony

    Hoppy, the first sentence of the fourth paragraph in the story has the word "pubic." Pubic. Pubic. Pubic. Pubic. It says pubic.

    • Hoppy Kercheval

      Well, that was an unfortunate mistake. Corrected.

  • The bookman

    Charter Schools sound more like publicly funded private schools than anything else. Where parents, students, educators, and community come together, public schools can thrive. Make no mistake. Without excellent public schools, our society will not achieve the necessary educated workforce for an increasingly intelligent economy.

    Instead of dividing our resources, we should refocus our efforts toward building great public schools. Everyone can do something.

    • Anthony

      I don't disagree, but can we have excellent public schools when the public has little to no say in who the teachers are? A unionized teaching force does nothing to correct mediocrity or complacency and worse, does nothing to encourage and reward great work.

      If we do refocus our efforts towards building great public schools, it needs to involve a plan that includes measurable goals for the teachers and corrective action plans if they fail to do so.

      • John James, Director of Youth Reporting Center

        I agree

    • liberty4all

      While I am generally in favor of the choice of charter schools, I agree with your comments. Given our state's very small population and extremely rural nature, I'm not sure charter schools would work where most needed. Those same areas could least afford fewer resources.

      Of course, I am fortunate to live in a community with great schools and parents largely committed to placing an emphasis on education. I am willing to listen to parents who have a more vested interest in this fight though.

      • Paul

        I agree with the comments of bookman as well. I worry when they say Charter schools will benefit the disadvantaged as it sounds just like Tax Increment Financing was going to remove slum and blight in the disadvantaged communities. We can fix anything if all parties come together. Many of our failing schools perhaps just needs a new principal to take the reigns or a handyman to make some necessary repairs to improve and maintain what they have. We have done a lot of damage over the past twenty years promising our troubles away with a new school, so those in anything but new feel like they are at a disadvantage. New, and in this case "Charter", is not always better.

  • a concerned educator

    As I mentioned in a post yesterday, why doesn't the WVDE allow this same concept to occur in the Innovation Zone schools? This way money would not be taken from the schools. They need to put their money where their mouth is.

  • Shadow

    At last, a place where the good teachers can go.

  • Tom m.

    What can red do for you?.

    • Anthony

      Has nothing to do with this. The sooner you realize all arguments aren't simply one side or the other the better off you'll be.

    • ViennaGuy

      What has blue done for us over the past 80+ years? I am still waiting for your answer.

      • RHytonen

        If you're talking about Democrats, or liberals, there is no "blue" here.
        zero.
        And the way the extraction industries have been running things for a century, I doubt there ever was.
        A "Democrat" ALEC member? Seriously?

        • I'm honest at least

          It always is a party line argument. People miss the fact all are elected on a monetary basis. That is the problem. The true feelings of the people electing these idiots are forgotten as soon as the almighty dollar comes into play.