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WVDOE Starts Charter School Policy Discussions

WHEELING — County boards of education and local school administrators feel the responsibilities and decisions pertaining to the establishment of charter schools in their county ultimately rest with them, and they want a seat at the table as West Virginia begins its effort to set forth policy for charter schools in the state.

The West Virginia Department of Education invited about a dozen educators last week to a gathering in Parkersburg, where each had the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns about charter schools.

Among those attending were State Board of Education member Dr. James S. Wilson of Glen Dale, Ohio County Schools Superintendent Kim Miller and Ohio County Board of Education member Sarah Koegler.

The West Virginia Legislature this year passed legislation allowing the establishment of up to three charter schools in the state through 2023, and permitting an additional three every three years in succeeding years. The law also gives county school boards authority to permit charter schools in the county.

The West Virginia Board of Education has until Jan. 1, 2020 to set forth proposed policies pertaining to charter schools. Before this, there must be a 30 day comment period in which the public may voice their opinions on the policy.

Wilson said it is typical for the WVDOE to gather educators together to assess their thoughts when policy is being formulated.

He said the educators present wanted to know specifically how the new law is being interpreted

“We have to have the policy in place by January — when the next legislative session starts,” Wilson said. “The State Department of Education will put it together — not the State Board of Education or local boards.

“But in the end, the responsibility of implementing the policy falls back on the school boards.”

Work to formulate charter school policy is just starting, according to Wilson. It will be completed later this fall, then put out for comment period.

As for whether the law establishing a charter school system in West Virginia is a good thing, he said, “It is what it is.”

“It’s in its beginning stages, and we must do the best we can with the charge we were given,” Wilson said. “And we will do it in conjunction with local boards and administrators — the ones who have to manage it.”

Miller said the purpose of the gather was for educators “to start talking about the possibilities of what could come from a charter school.”

“It has already passed,” Miller said. “If they are going to be developing a policy, we certainly want to be at the table.”

She feels the policy needs to have barriers limiting when a charter school can be established.

“There has to be a need,” Miller said. “I think our schools here offer everything you can imagine. I don’t see a need. We have a lot of options in our area in place.

“But if there’s a time and place to discuss charter school policy, we want to be a part of it.”

Koegler said a lot of ideas were discussed at the gathering, but no decisions were made.

“It seems very important that county boards have autonomy and say over setting charter schools in their county,” she said. “Ultimately, county boards are responsible for how students in their county are educated.

“In Ohio County, we don’t see a need for charter schools, but we want our board to set the criteria for any charter applying for a school in the county. Whether or not we would say yes, we don’t want the state to dictate to us,” Koegler said.

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