Charter Schools Decision Best Made at Local Level
by Jim Hopkins, school board member
The Code of Virginia grants final decision
making authority for charter schools to local school boards.
The Republicans in Virginia’s General Assembly are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would
give final authorization for charter schools to a politically appointed board in Richmond.
In 2015 this constitutional amendment passed the General Assembly by one vote in the Senate.
The voting was strictly along party lines. However, for the amendment to go into effect, it must
be approved a second time by the General Assembly. In 2016 the
constitutional amendment failed in the Senate by two votes. If it had passed the second time,
the constitutional amendment would have been placed on the General Elections ballot
in November. Virginia's constitution cannot be amended without approval of the citizens.
One of the reasons for having a constitution is to protect citizens from an over zealous central government.
Before amending Virginia's constitution, it is important to consider all the ramifications that could result from
such a change. If the proposed constitutional amendment is approved by voters, it would strip locally
elected school boards of final authority to establish charter schools and would turn that authority over to a
politically appointed board in Richmond.
If the board in Richmond has final charter school authority, their decisions would have an effect on all
local schools. Also this constitutional amendment, if approved, would open the door for a
complete state takeover of our local schools. Of course the politicians in Richmond say this
would never happen. But local school boards are saying let's leave the door closed by
rejecting this constitutional amendment.
This is not a referendum on the value of charter schools. Rather the referendum will decide
who has the final authority (power) to establish charter schools. Nine charter schools currently
exist in Virginia and were authorized by local school boards. If the referendum is voted down,
decisions on charter schools will continue to be made by local school boards. Locally elected
officials are in a better position to make these decisions because they are directly answerable
to the voters. A politically appointed board in Richmond is not accountable to any voters.