A couple of weeks ago, we wrote a blog post detailing a bill out of West Virginia that would have been a recipe for disaster for kids and families choosing charter schools. At the time, the drafted language weakened accountability and put students’ civil rights in a precarious position. So, we were extremely pleased to see that several amendments were made, now the bill is set up to usher in a new era of excellent charter schools where WV students can thrive.
Charter schools agree to accept greater accountability for student outcomes in exchange for greater autonomy over inputs. When schools grievously abuse their autonomy by violating the law or the public trust, revocation is the ultimate accountability sanction. The need for revocation is rare, however, history has proven that occasionally, authorizers need the ability to end contracts before the time of renewal, not only due to health and safety issues, but also malfeasance. Therefore, we are glad to see that language has been added that would allow for revocations in the cases of fiscal mismanagement, material breaches of contract, and dire academic deficiencies.
That said, revocation should never be used as a weapon, and it is essential that authorizers have clear, transparent policies on when and how revocation may be considered and for there to be clear due process protocols in place for schools. We look forward to working with West Virginia as regulations are developed to meet national best practice standards.
Special Education Rights
Families should choose the schools that best fit their children’s needs, not the other way around. Charter schools are public schools. And as such, they must provide a free and appropriate education for ALL students, including students with disabilities. We are relieved to see that the amended bill now explicitly ensures that students with disabilities do not face discriminatory barriers to enrollment. It is important that the law now ensures families and charter schools prioritize immediately establishing an appropriate Individualized Education Program to set the student up for success.
West Virginia’s legislators should be applauded for listening to the concerns raised over this bill as first introduced and adopting amendments – from both sides of the political aisle – to ensure West Virginia’s charter sector provides high-quality education opportunities to families. When quality education wins, students and families win.