What’s your opinion on charter schools in West Virginia?
Now’s your chance to put it in writing with the state Department of Education.
The department is accepting public comments on its Policy 3300, which was spun from the passage of a house bill that would allow up to 10 charter schools in the state over the next three years.
Charter schools are those private institutions of learning that run separate from public schools.
Generally, they aren’t beholden to state-mandated policies or benchmarks.
They can have a free-form curriculum and a year-‘round calendar, if their administrators and governing boards want. They can exist solely online, even.
But don’t grab for the hall pass just yet. There is a caveat.
In West Virginia, any such school must get approval of the public board of education of the respective county where it wishes to set academic roots.
Approval, in this case, means a measure of control, at least where the initial application to operate is concerned.
The politics and particulars of such control literally hit home last month before the state Supreme Court in Charleston.
Attorneys for and against took up the matter of the West Virginia Academy, which would have been the state’s first charter school.
The school wanted to open its doors in the Morgantown area, drawing students from the city and across Mon and neighboring Preston counties.
Monongalia County Board of Education gave a resounding no vote to the application last November, saying the academy’s application failed to meet seven out of 10 academic and operational benchmarks established by the state Department of Education.
Their counterparts in neighboring Preston also voted the same.
The academy, though, appealed the ruling.
Its counsel and the academy board both said it would have been impossible to get a fair review either way – since any charter school successfully recruiting a public school student would also mean taking the state aid allotment for each such student away from the coffers of the local district.
The deadline to respond to both the application and any noted deficiencies in the application remained somewhat in dispute after both arguments.
Justices, though, sided with the local decision, saying it wasn’t logistically possible for the academy to begin holding classes by late August, which is also when public schools reopen for the fall term.
The turnaround time would be too short, justices said, owing that the academy didn’t address failing marks on its application.
In the meantime the state department is accepting comments through 4 p.m. Monday.
To read the policy and make comments, visit http://wvde.state.wv.us/policies and click on the “Policy 3300” link.
Comments may also be mailed to: Sarah Stewart, Government Affairs Counsel, WVDE Legal Services, Capitol Building 6, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E. Charleston, WV 25305.