Authorize WV charter schools

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Private charter schools may not be of direct value to some West?Virginia students, as Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has noted. But surely he is aware of the enormous indirect benefits they can provide in every corner of the state.

Legislators tried last year to enact a bill that would have authorized charter schools and permitted them to receive state funding. The measure died after substantial flaws in it were pointed out.

A charter school bill already has been introduced in the House of Delegates – and this time, it should pass and be signed into law by the governor.

At least initially, publicly funded charter schools probably would be established only in West Virginia’s larger cities. Students in rural counties would not have access to them, as Tomblin has pointed out.

But they would benefit from the increased competition between public- and private-sector schools. In virtually any endeavor, competition strengthens all involved.

Charter schools, freed from many of the red-tape burdens that restrain innovation among public educators, also could be engines of reform for the entire state. By showing the way, they could encourage legislators to loosen the reins that for years have held back teachers and principals in the public school system.

Are there pitfalls? Of course. As we noted last year, Mountain State lawmakers should be careful not to make the same mistakes that occurred in Ohio, when that state authorized charter schools several years ago. Lack of accountability, both financially and academically, has hurt the charter school movement in Ohio.

A carefully written charter school law in West Virginia could provide enormous benefits, both directly and indirectly. Tomblin should work with the Legislature to make it happen.

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