Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Plum Vows to Keep Open Mind on Charters

Plum Vows to Keep Open Mind on Charters
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 13, 2010

I am pleased to learn that Delegate Ken Plum (D-36) is at least willing to keep an open mind on the issue of charter schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He correctly pointed out that there are but three such institutions at work in Virginia, each located south of Richmond with a fourth slated to open during this calendar year in the Richmond area.

There is a reason there are so few charter schools operating in Virginia. As someone seeking to open a charter school in Northern Virginia, I naturally, have been doing my homework. (I have also taught in both public and charter schools in MD and DC.) In reading the Code of Virginia's 10 pages concerning charter schools, a three-word headline can be used to sum up why there are a mere three in the Commonwealth: Fox Guards Henhouse.

One of the reasons there are so few charter schools is that approval from local schools boards in the jurisdiction where a charter is to be located is mandated. So, the first step must be to rid local school boards of such destructive power. It is destructive as competition is the bellwether of America as a whole and such a level of competition amongst schools will only help create better schools, better students and ultimately a better society.

Public charter schools ought to have autonomy to operate as they wish as long as they are able to produce results in keeping within the standards under which all Virginia public school students are expected to perform.

Public schools are too often handcuffed by bureaucracy limiting their movements and actions, while charter schools, at least to the extent I experienced in DC, had a greater degree of flexibility and independence even in spite of their faults as institutions.
Governor-elect Bob McDonnell campaigned in support of charter school expansion this past fall. A commission needs to be established next Tuesday - day one of the new administration and amending the Code of Virginia should be amended to pave the way for smoother road for charter schools to take their rightful place in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria. He has a Masters in Education.

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