Home Mark Obenshain: Historic day for charter schools

Mark Obenshain: Historic day for charter schools


obenshain2Wednesday was an historic day for education reform in Virginia, as the Senate passed my resolution that could result in a constitutional amendment, giving charter schools a chance to succeed in Virginia.
While I am pleased with the win, I am disappointed and perplexed that it was a party-line vote. Improving education in the Commonwealth should not be a partisan issue. It should be about fighting for children and families, particularly those residing in areas of the state where they are being left behind.

We must work on providing families with meaningful educational choices, and the passage of this amendment is a step in the right direction. We still have a long way to go, but I am committed to continuing the fight for expanded choice in education, finally giving charter schools a chance to flourish here in the Commonwealth.

While Charter schools are thriving across the country, Virginia lags far behind. We have only seven charter schools in the Commonwealth and because of our restrictive and unfriendly laws, charter applications have dwindled to a veritable trickle. We have consistently ranked among the least hospitable states in the country for charter schools, and I believe it’s time to change that.

Nationally this hasn’t been a partisan issue. We have seen Republicans and Democrats come together in states like New York, Minnesota, Florida, and Colorado to champion charter schools and expand choice in education.

Furthermore, cities including Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and New Orleans have given hope to students in struggling schools and provided concerned parents with an option to enroll their children in a charter school that can meet their educational needs. There’s no reason we can’t do the same thing here in Virginia.

A recent poll from a left-leaning firm found that 70% of Americans support the growing school choice movement, including 60% of Democrats! Parents want common sense solutions to the problems they face, and they don’t care if those solutions come from Democrats or Republicans.

If you stand with me on this important issue, please contact your legislator in the House of Delegates and urge them to pass this important measure when it comes before them in the coming days. If successful this year, the resolution must be voted on and approved again next year before going on the ballot in the 2016 general election.

Since my election to the Senate in 2003, I’ve worked hard on education reform. I am not so naïve as to believe that charter schools are a panacea that will solve all of our education challenges. I do, however, believe that charter schools are an important part of the process. They will provide a lifeline and opportunity to thousands of students and families in Virginia.

However, the work is not done. It remains a tough road, but I firmly believe it’s worth the fight, and I hope you’ll join me in my efforts to expand charter schools in the Commonwealth.

Mark Obenshain is a member of the State Senate of Virginia.



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