INTERVIEW: Role of charter schools in Central Virginia

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Today Governor Bob McDonnell signed into legislation a law that has the potential to dramatically increase the role of charter schools in Central Virginia. One of the key players in the initiative is the Patrick Henry School of Arts and Sciences in Richmond.

Virginia's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Patricia Wright, joined NBC12 to discuss this plan.

RYAN: Let's talk about this law. We have three charter schools operating in Virginia, Patrick Henry will make four. How will this new law change how these schools are already operating right now?

DR. WRIGHT: The new law doesn't change the existing schools but sends a message that Virginia is open for business. We have three in operation, one additional one, Patrick Henry to start in the fall, and that more innovative programs are definitely needed in Virginia. This is about the children. This is about providing choice options for parents and students. The law was crafted many years ago to entertain those innovative programs, because we all know that children learn in different ways and different settings.

RYAN: And let's talk more about those innovative programs because even if you're child never goes for a charter school, is the plan ultimately that this will benefit people in all walks of public education.

DR. WRIGHT: Yes, that's the idea with any kind of innovative program. You test new ideas, new settings, new -- you evaluate the progress and you distribute that information state wide. And so the innovations that are being tested out in these schools could potentially be implemented in the regular school setting or could prompt other charter schools to open up.

RYAN: Now, it's obviously been a long road for charter schools. They have often been met with opposition at many levels. Particularly supporters of public education are concern that it draws away resources from the existing public schools. How would you respond to those worries?

DR. WRIGHT: My philosophy is charter schools in Virginia are public schools and different settings for different children. We should be open to new ideas. I don't see the charter school bill as drawing children from the regular school settings that are being successful, that are thriving in those regular settings, but I worry about the children who don't thrive in the regular setting and their parents want choices for those children. This is what the bill is about, it's about quality and providing parents choices.

RYAN: What about access? That's another big concern that almost everyone wants the opportunity for their kids to go to one of these schools a lottery system right now at Patrick Henry. Will there be more initiatives to give more abscess to more people that want the opportunity to go to one of these schools?

DR. WRIGHT: I think as the charter schools movement gross in Virginia, there will be more opportunities for children to attend these innovative programs if their parents choose for them to do so.

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