Rucker hopeful to change charter school law

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Senate Education Committee chairperson is eager to change West Virginia’s charter school guidelines, and she believes the Republican-led Legislature will approve alterations.

“I do believe that this was something that was a priority for us. We really feel very strongly that we should be open to new things and trying to find what works,” Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, said. “I think everyone understands that there are some things that we might need to fix in order for this to be a viable option.”

Rucker’s comments last week on “MetroNews Talkline” come in the wake of school boards in Monongalia and Preston counties rejecting an application for West Virginia Academy, which would have been the state’s first charter school.

Monongalia County education leaders told MetroNews there were questions about the submission and if the institution would be offering anything different from existing institutions.

Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson (West Virginia Legislature)

Rucker noted she planned to push changes before the local boards’ decisions.

The state Legislature approved allowing charter schools last year following discussion surrounding an omnibus education bill.

“There were some things that were taken out in the final version that I think were mistakes,” Rucker said of the charter school plan. “Very important aspects to the charter legislation that I had introduced that did not make it through the whole process.”

Rucker said she wants to eliminate the three-school limit — which she said makes West Virginia unable to access federal funding — and establish an authorizing body for approving schools. Local education bodies must issue a decision on a charter school application within 90 days of receiving a completed petition.

“In my original version, there were three ways that schools could be authorized,” she said. “In all of the states that have successful charter programs, there is always at least one additional alternative to authorizing charter schools.”

Rucker argued local education leaders will reject charter schools, as they perceive the institutions as competition to public institutions.

“If we had an authorizing board that had some experience and whose job it was to be experts on charter schools … that authorizing board will probably do a better job of knowing exactly how to measure success and know what are the necessary things that need to be part of an application,” she said.

Republicans won legislative supermajorities in the November general election. The 2021 regular legislative session will begin on Feb. 10.

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