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Writing Rules For Charters

West Virginia has authorized charter schools, as some education reformers urged, but it will be exceedingly difficult to open one. State Department of Education officials should not make it even more difficult than the law enacted earlier this year does.

Fierce pressure, including a work stoppage earlier this year by many members of school-employee unions, prompted legislators to enact only a very restrictive charter school bill. It permits no more than three charters during the next three years.

And, the law virtually guarantees that if a local board of education opposes charters, none can be established in that county.

As we reported, state and some local school officials met earlier this month to discuss rules for charters. Though the new law is quite detailed, the state Department of Education is charged with writing specific regulations. That work must be completed by Jan. 1, according to the statute.

“We have a very watered-down charter bill, quite frankly,” state school Superintendent Steve Paine admitted to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Some local education officials, including Ohio County Board of Education member Sarah Koegler, who attended the meeting, “don’t see a need for charter schools …”

But in some areas of West Virginia, public schools are absolutely deplorable — and, as we have emphasized several times, that is not necessarily the fault of educators. Part of the problem is state and federal regulation. Charter schools might well be attractive to students and parents in some places.

The new law makes it difficult enough to establish a charter school in West Virginia. In writing specific regulations, state officials should take care not to make the endeavor impossible.

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