Update: Elementary Charter School Still AliveSep 16, 2008
Virginia may yet get its first charter elementary school. Richmond School Board member Keith West yesterday proposed a new contract for the Patrick Henry Initiative. Although some on the board threatened to committee it to death or kill it in some other parliamentary procedure, the contract apparently got a fair hearing in the board's legal committee yesterday — five hours worth. It will be taken up again by the committee on September 24, then by the board itself on October 6. West, a champion of alternative education and member of School Choice Virginia, an education reform coalition of which The Family Foundation is a part, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he sees progress after yesterday's meeting (read here). As we commented in our earlier posts on this subject, linked at the top of this post, the laws in Virginia regarding charter schools must change, and change ASAP. The entire drawn-out process in Richmond will have an impact statewide because the vagaries of the current law are what allowed the restrictive, and unacceptable, elements of the first contract that the board defeated. No surprise: Richmond educrats, who have a vested interest in seeing alternative education fail, wrote the contract so that the proposed charter school would run almost exactly like a regular Richmond public school, i.e., with little flexibility for innovation. In other words, so it would fail! The entrenched will use all tactics at their disposal to stop real education reform and, in Virginia, their arsenal is considerable. Even the Times-Dispatch noted in a previous article (see here):
And with laws that people on both sides of the Patrick Henry issue say are excessively vague, charter school growth isn't likely without big change.
West's counter offer, the one debated yesterday, "reduces administrative burdens and allows the flexibility for the school to be innovative." He then told the Times-Dispatch:
The more I got into that contract what they really had was a Richmond public school by a different name without as many resources. The whole point of a charter school is, you can give them some flexibility. But that flexibility wasn't there.
Opponents have opened another tactical front, arguing that the school won't be "sustainable" for a lack of fund raising (while, of course, the school district spends good taxpayer money after bad on its schools). However, if West's contract is approved, it may be the first breech in the dam, with a shock to the statewide public school system, especially in urban areas. Still, Virginia educrats have lots of fingers to plug the dike. It won't collapse until the General Assembly acts definitively.