2016 is the 25th Anniversary year of the passage of the first charter school law in Minnesota in June, 1991. Since then, chartering has spread to 43 states, Guam, the District of Columbia, Alberta, Canada, and even to the Kurdish region of Iraq. Yet, seven states still resist passage of a charter school law: Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, West Virginia, Vermont, and Kentucky.
Leaders in West Virginia are ready to change that. House Bill 4011, which allows for creation of public charter schools, was introduced January 20, specifically timed before National School Choice Week. The author is Republican Delegate Paul Espinosa, chair of the House Education Committee. A similar bill was introduced last year, but died in the House.
The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is working with legislators to educate them and to dispel the myths of chartering. For example, in a state that is 62% rural, some legislators believe charters provide opportunity only for families in big cities. Tell that to leaders of successful rural charter schools around the country! The term-limited Democratic governor opposed chartering in his State of the State address. Perhaps he is unaware that 2/3 of the American public supports chartering, and every Presidential candidate since Bill Clinton has supported chartering as well. To our allies in West Virginia—let us know how we can help!
In Nebraska, a new nonprofit organization was launched earlier this month to help educate parents about the need for alternative education options. Educate Nebraska, led by Executive Director Katie Linehan, is committed to school choice, excellent educators, and meaningful use of reliable data. In 2014, a chartering bill fell short by one vote in the Education Committee. Educate Nebraska is committed to educating parents and policymakers and building support in Nebraska for a strong push for chartering in 2017, after the fall elections.
Pioneering chartering in any state is not easy. You are not alone. Thank you for your leadership in bringing new opportunities to the families of your states!