My mother and her mother were born in Virginia. My first job at the Washington Post covered evening school board meetings in the Virginia communities of Arlington and Alexandria. I did assignments in China and California, but realized in the 1990s that I wanted to write about American teachers. Virginia was then making bold reforms.
Its learning standards reviews have raised the standard of education in a way that is the envy of other states. Northern Virginia districts were also among the first in the nation to open Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate college-level courses and exams to all students who wished to take them.
Opinion: Transform Virginia’s education system to create opportunities for all
Freitas and Fish rightly focused their article on empowering parents to provide their children with the most qualified education. “Students should not be denied the education that is best for them because of their zip code or their parents’ financial circumstances,” they said. They quoted Governor Glenn Youngkin (right) as saying: ‘When parents are empowered and engaged, a child’s life is improved.’
They highlighted ideas such as state money to help pay for tuition, fees, textbooks, tutoring, and other qualified expenses at schools chosen by parents. They said they wanted students to be able to attend any public school inside or outside their school district and enroll in apprenticeships and competency-based learning.
However, they omitted an important factor. I agreed when they said that “parents are in the best position to make educational decisions for their children”. But parents need help finding what works. The state should encourage resourceful educators to open new schools, something Virginia resisted and Freitas and Fish did not mention.
Public charter schools are privately run with taxpayers’ money. They aren’t perfect, but many of them have become creative devices for more effective teaching. Freitas and Fish mention charters but fail to point out that Virginia only has seven. Indeed, district school boards in the Old Dominion have blocked new charters within their borders for years. Virginia appears to be one of only three states, the others being Maryland and Kansas, that give local school boards this exclusive power. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has good information.
I live in California. There are no such restrictions, although there are powerful teachers’ unions which criticize the charters because most of them are not unionized. County school boards or the California state school board can approve new charters if the local board does not. Strangely, the issue of charter permission didn’t come up much in Virginia’s high-profile furor over schools in last year’s state election, though Youngkin called for another 20 this year. charters in the state.
One of the best districts in Virginia, Fairfax County, is one of the worst for this. He rejected good charter ideas not because the state’s teachers’ unions (weaker than in some other states) oppose them, but because many school leaders in wealthy Fairfax believe that charters are inferior to them. One of the best teachers I know tried to create a charter for low-income kids in Fairfax County. It had strong support from experts and community leaders, but fell through because school officials balked at doing something charter-rich Washington, D.C. was doing. I feel like some school boards are also resisting charters because they might show that regular schools are inadequate in some way.
Fairfax Charter School: An Impossible Dream?
To make good decisions, parents need to see the best ideas in action. In the 1990s, two young educators started a little charter in the South Bronx. It was one of the first KIPP schools, now the largest charter network in the country. Many South Bronx parents thought KIPP teachers Dave Levin and Frank Corcoran were overwhelmed. But when word spread about everything the KIPP kids were learning, opinion changed.
KIPP College used the fourth floor of a regular public school in the South Bronx. Staff at this school attempted to evict KIPP from the building. The effort fell apart when more than 200 KIPP parents appeared at a crucial board meeting, chanting “KIPP, KIPP, KIPP, KIPP”.
Freitas and Fish should push to end giving local school boards exclusive power over charter permissions. The fact that the issue was rarely raised in recent elections may mean that campaign consultants did not find it of interest to voters.
Its good. He can be accurately described as non-partisan. We all have differences with our neighbors, but many of us, perhaps reluctantly, admit that we are happiest when we have something we can agree on.