The state established a charter school system in 2019. The inclusion of charter schools is designed to increase competition among schools and provide choice to parents who do not want to send their children to a local public school.
One of the approved schools will be in the Morgantown area: the West Virginia Academy. One school will be in the eastern panhandle: the Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy. The third will be in Nitro: the Nitro Preparatory Academy. All three will provide in-person education. The board has yet to approve any virtual charter schools.
“The approval of West Virginia’s first three charter schools is an important first step in building an education space that places children front-and-center in education, not adults and their needs,” Garrett Ballengee, the executive director of the free-market Cardinal Institute, told The Center Square.
“While West Virginia is somewhat late to the charter school party, it’s, nonetheless, a very exciting time for families across the state,” Ballengee said. “When coupled with West Virginia’s game-changing Hope Scholarship ESA program, it’s realistic to say West Virginia is the most exciting state in the education reform space right now, and, frankly, no one would have predicted that even five years ago.”
Although the original legislation passed in 2019 was very restrictive, Republican leadership eased those restrictions in 2021. The updated law allows the board to approve 10 new charter schools every three years, which more than tripled the original allowance, including virtual charter schools. The law still limits charter schools to enrolling no more than 10% of the statewide student population and limits virtual charter schools to enrolling no more than 5% of the statewide student population.
Another bill passed in 2021 allows eligible parents to use public money to enroll their children in private schools. This legislation would redirect money that would have otherwise been used to send the child to the public school.
The new school choice options received strong support from Republicans and free-market groups, but received opposition from Democratic leadership and teachers unions.
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.