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Time to Pass a Strong Charter Schools Bill

Charleston, W.Va. --

By several measures, many children in West Virginia are in an educational crisis and that crisis is most profound for low income children.

In West Virginia, the 2013 test results show that of approximately 133,000 students’ grades 3, 8 and 11, 54 percent of all students fell short of the proficiency mark in math and 51 percent fell short in reading.

Of low income students, 61 percent fell short of the proficiency mark in math and 59 percent fell short in reading.

In the face of such staggering data, the status quo is hard to defend.

Public charter school advocates support public charter schools as one way to give low-income and working-class families better options for their children’s education.

Charter schools are unique public schools allowed the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Because they are public schools, they are open to all children, do not charge tuition and do not have special entrance requirements.

Public charter schools were created 22 years ago to help improve our public school system and offer parents another public option to better meet their child’s specific needs.

Successful public charter schools in other states have taken advantage of the freedom they are afforded to extend the school day, adjust the curriculum, create a distinctive culture or special theme and develop groundbreaking learning models that redefine the classroom and reflect the latest teacher training research.

Like other public schools, charters are funded by local, state and federal tax dollars based on enrollment and are open to all children.

West Virginia is one of just eight states that do not allow public charter schools. As a latecomer to the table, our state is in a great position to craft a law that draws on the lessons of other states and incorporates the best elements of tried-and-true programs.

We are not looking for a political win here -- we want more high-performing public schools that increase academic performance and graduation rates for all our children.

At a time when increasing the educational quality afforded to all children is our most urgent priority, we are encouraged by the bold leadership of many lawmakers who are willing to put politics and fear aside and put children first.

An excellent education remains the great equalizer. Giving all families access to high-quality public charter schools would go a long way toward leveling the playing field in West Virginia for our most vulnerable children.

It’s time is now to pass a strong public charter school law.

Eugenie Taylor is special issues coordinator with the state Chamber of Commerce and mother of three public school students.

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