RICHMOND—This evening, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) thanked Governor Bob McDonnell for his commitment to charter school reform and for his endorsement of efforts Senator Obenshain has championed to allow them to succeed in Virginia.
In his State of the Commonwealth Address, Governor McDonnell said:
"We must also continue to bring more innovation and choices to our public education system. Excellent education requires the courage to try new approaches. Public charter schools have done well nationally to help bring options to our most underserved communities. They can increase flexibility and innovation and offer a wider range of educational experiences.
"We've approved new charter laws, but we haven't done nearly enough. Massachusetts has 72 charter schools. Pennsylvania 164. Florida 520. Virginia has just four! We still have one of the weakest public charter schools laws in the country.
"The best public charter school operators in the nation will not come here because we make it nearly impossible for them. We need new charter school laws that demand excellence, set clear standards, and welcome the best charter schools into our communities. I'm asking the General Assembly to join with me to pass a Constitutional amendment to allow the state Board of Education to authorize charter applicants.
"And I am asking for their support of legislation to eliminate the requirement that local school boards who originate a charter school application must apply for authorization from the state Board of Education. These ideas will make it much easier for proven charter schools to open up. Better schools mean better jobs and a stronger Virginia."
Senator Obenshain is the patron of SB 934, legislation freeing charter schools to innovate and provide more opportunities to students, and SJ 302, a constitutional amendment allowing the State Board of Education to authorize the establishment of new charter schools.
"Charter schools work because they provide the flexibility to meet the needs of students who don't excel in more traditional school settings or who are looking for more specialized instruction. They also serve as an important outlet for children being left behind by other schools," said Obenshain. "I am excited to have the Governor as an ally in the effort to expand educational opportunity for all Virginians."
The Center for Education Reform ranks Virginia's laws the second weakest of the 41 states (and the District of Columbia) with charter schools, and a constitutional provision requiring all schools to be authorized through the local school board has served as an impediment to the creation of new charter schools across Virginia.
"Every child in Virginia deserves the best education possible, and public charter schools can be an important component of our efforts to provide a quality education to every child," said Obenshain. "Charter schools enable parents to choose which school can best serve their children, a model that has succeeded across the country."
"Charter schools are one of the great educational success stories of recent years, giving new hope to students in major cities like Philadelphia, New Orleans, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C.," Obenshain continued. "They are, moreover, a bipartisan success story, the product of Democrats and Republicans working together all across the country to improve our educational system. They have been embraced by conservatives and liberals and people everywhere in between – because they work."
"Last session we took a modest step in the right direction, but it's time for Virginia to get off the sidelines, and with Governor McDonnell's strong support, I look forward to working to make choice within the public school system one of the signature accomplishments of this year's General Assembly. If we get this done, we'll have done right by the children of Virginia."
Mark Obenshain has served in the Senate of Virginia since 2004, and has been recognized as a conservative leader in that chamber. The Republican Party of Virginia will select its nominee at convention in Richmond on May 18, 2013.
ON THE WEB:
Charter Reform Bill: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?131+sum+SB934
Charter Authorizers Amendment: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?131+sum+SJ302