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Community leaders question provisions for charter schools in education bill

If Senate Bill 451, the education bill, is approved, West Virginia would become the 45th state to allow charter schools. (WCHS/WVAH)

If Senate Bill 451, the education bill, is approved, West Virginia would become the 45th state to allow charter schools.

It's a topic that has raised questions from not just teachers but others in the community.

The Rev. Matthew Watts, a community leader on Charleston’s West Side, said it's a system in need of reform, especially when looking at schools that are falling behind like Mary C. Snow Elementary School.

"So, when the standardized test scores come back on Mary C. Snow, it's not just the test scores for those students, for those teachers and for the principal. It is our test scores as a community. It speaks to the challenge we face as a community,” Watts said.

Watts said it's the prime example of a school that could thrive if it were transformed into a charter school, a school that is publicly funded, but independent of the school system, established by teachers, parents or community groups.

West Virginia is one of the six states in the country that does not allow charter schools, but Senate Bill 451 is aiming to change that distinction.

Gov. Jim Justice said Tuesday that charter schools will not get his support.

"As for statewide charter schools, it’s a no with me. We have not by any means perfected our public schools, and for crying out loud we need to focus on our public schools,” Justice said.

Watts said if the bill will not include already existing public schools to be transformed into charter schools it will not get his support either.

"If a charter school would be the best for the community, based on what the parents and community thinks is best for them, then an existing school should be able to be converted to a charter school,” Watts said.

Along with provisions for charter schools, Watts said Senate Bill 451 is trying to push through several issues at once.

"We might have a bill that allows for a whole lot of things to happen, we may not have the synergy, the cooperation, the relationships we need to move education forward in West Virginia,” Watts said.

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