Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) issued the following statement today in response to the failure of the Senate of Virginia pass the charter school constitutional amendment, SJ 6 by a vote of 19-21 earlier today.
“I am extremely disappointed by our failure to pass the public charter school amendment in its second year. Last year, this measure passed due to all 21 Republicans supporting it. We were unfortunately unable to marshal those same votes this year. It is always hard for good policy to overcome special interests, like the national teachers unions, when it is not an election year. Sadly, those paying the highest price for this action are children in a handful of localities with failing schools,” Obenshain said.
“I believe all children deserve a quality education regardless of their zip code. I consider myself an ‘all of the above’ guy when it comes to improving our education system and public charter schools is just one piece of the puzzle. There are only 9 charters in Virginia. To me this is completely unacceptable. Charter schools know that Virginia is not worth the effort because applications are routinely and arbitrarily denied. We had an opportunity today to really make a difference in the lives and education of children and we turned our back,” Obenshain added.
SJ 6 would have allowed voters in Virginia to have a voice in the charter school debate on the November ballot. The measure, if passed, would have enabled charter applicants, who were denied by local school boards to appeal their application to the State Board of Election. Currently, charter schools can only be authorized by local school boards. Charter schools have only been around since the 1990s and studies show that they are most successful in school divisions that are not performing well. They can free up constraints that have been imposed on school divisions and work “outside the box” to provide a quality education to the students they serve.
A recent Stanford University study shows that urban charter schools on average achieve significantly greater student success in both math and reading, which amounts to 40 additional days of learning growth in math and 28 days of additional growth in reading. Compared to the national profile of charter school performance, urban charters produce more positive results. A study by The Tarrance Group just a few weeks ago revealed that about 72% of Virginians want more charter schools.
“I will not give up the fight for education reform, charter schools and opportunities for Virginia’s children. I believe that this will make the most difference in the lives of our children, more than anything else that we do here at the General Assembly,” Obenshain concluded.
Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).