Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) expressed his disappointment that efforts to expand charter schools in Virginia have hit another roadblock. After a historic bipartisan vote in the Senate and passing swiftly through the House of Delegates, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced his intent to veto SB 1283 today. Obenshain remarked about the continued barriers that charter schools face in Virginia.
“I have been a passionate advocate for charter schools – or more accurately, for the families to whom charter schools provide a lifeline for escaping a handful of failing school divisions – for more than a decade, and today’s veto will not change that. I’d like to thank my colleagues in the Senate for their support, and especially Senator Chap Peterson, who showed a lot of courage in voting for this legislation. It’s unfortunate that Governor McAuliffe continues to support the interests of teachers’ unions over families and children facing failing schools. With charter schools recognized nationwide as a bipartisan educational solution to improve our children’s futures, Virginia remains far behind.”
“Florida has upwards of five hundred charter schools; Virginia has just nine that serve 2,000 students. If we’re serious about providing families with meaningful educational choices when faced with failing schools, then that has to change.”
Obenshain’s SB 1283 would have created regional charter public school divisions, to serve localities in excess of 3,000 students, and with one or more schools having been denied accreditation two out of the past three years. SB 1283 would have applied to just ten school divisions in Virginia, and would not have diverted any local taxpayer funding from schools. Currently, charter schools in Virginia can only be authorized by their public school division. Unfortunately, few school divisions have been willing to authorize a competing public school, even upon a strong showing of local need and a compelling operating plan. In a statewide poll released last year by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 72% of Virginians favor having more public charter schools.
Obenshain stated that a guiding principal in his charter proposal is to provide parents with a choice when faced with failing schools. He explained that charter schools could only be created where the need is greatest, with input from local governing bodies while limiting the use of local funding. Further, he lamented on the missed opportunity that charter schools provide.
“Public charter schools work, despite claims to the contrary. In Chicago’s Urban Prep charter schools, 100% of their senior class has been accepted to college – for seven consecutive years. Stanford University released studies several years ago showing that charter school students make the equivalent of an additional two months’ gains in math and reading each year,” said Obenshain. “We should be chomping at the bit for the opportunity to bring those sorts of results to Virginia, but instead we put up roadblocks each step of the way. This veto is another roadblock to success, and I will continue the fight for educational choice for parents and children in Virginia.”
“While other areas around the country see success in charter schools, Governor McAuliffe continues to represent the interest of teachers unions. Rather than offering a lifeline to children in failing school divisions, Governor McAuliffe would prefer the status quo – failing grades, failing schools, and failing futures,” said Obenshain.
“Charter schools are one of the great educational success stories of recent years, giving new hope to students in major cities like Philadelphia, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.,” Obenshain continued. “They are, moreover, a bipartisan success story, the product of Democrats and Republicans working together all across the country to improve our educational system. They have been embraced by conservatives and liberals alike, and people everywhere in between – because they work. It is shameful that Virginia continues to block a system that has consistently proven to work.”
“I look forward to continuing the fight for educational choice in Virginia. I’m grateful for the hard work and advocacy of the National Association for Public Charter Schools and ExcelinEd. This is a moral issue – an imperative opportunity – that we provide parents and children a lifeline when they need it most. We had the opportunity to make a difference in the future of Virginia’s citizens, and we have failed them. I look forward to a new administration, one committed to all Virginians, rather than the corporate interests of unions,” 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).