INTERVIEW: Does Petersburg need a charter school?

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The topic of charter schools is gaining momentum around Virginia. First Richmond successfully launched the Patrick Henry School of Arts and Sciences and now there are folks in Petersburg clamoring for a school of their own.

NBC12 Education Specialist Dr. Bill Bosher joined First at Four to discuss the pros and cons of the idea.

RYAN: The Petersburg school district certainly has a lot of challenges. Would adding the debate over a charter school help or hurt the debate they're face something?

DR. BOSHER: Petersburg has made some progress. They are still the last of the five school divisions engaged by the board of education because they were not showing progress. There is still significant help needed. The governor simply threw on the table the possibility of a charter school in Virginia. Charter schools are public schools. If you ask the Center for Education Reform, they say Virginia has the worst public school in the country. If you ask the National School Board Association, they say it's the best one in the country, because they're public schools and regulated by the public.

RYAN: In Petersburg, and as it's become everywhere, it's always become a political debate. Senator Marsh is getting involved saying it's a very bad idea. How do we separate the politics from what is best for the kids?

DR. BOSHER: Ryan, that's critical. First of all, this is a problem for democrats -- and probably a problem for African-Americans --  because you have a president who is a democrat and African-American who is actually saying to states, "If you want race to the top money, you must have a charter school built." Kentucky just lost millions for one reason -- They didn't have a charter school built. How do you balance that philosophically and ideologically with the debate in Petersburg? I don't believe charter schools are a salvation to any problem. I do believe they are choices in a competitive environment and probably should be given the opportunity and I've spent most of my life in the public schools.

RYAN: Isn't that the problem, that there isn't enough data definitively to say charter schools are better?

DR. BOSHER: Ryan, I don't believe that they inherently do work better or in poorer ways. We can find really good charter schools and really poor ones, really can public schools and poor ones, really did private schools and poor ones, really good home schools and poor ones. The idea is finding a set of options for those in Petersburg, public and private, where they have reasonable choices, because the single choice hasn't worked for all the young people.

RYAN: And you can talk about it tonight in Petersburg at 7p.m. at the Appomattox Regional Governor's Schools. They will have this discussion about whether it's a good idea.

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