(The Center Square) — President Joe Biden is proposing tougher rules for charter schools applying for federal funding, which could add more hurdles to charter school expansion in Virginia.
Under the proposed rules, a charter school would have to submit a community impact analysis showing it would meet currently unmet demand, which would have to be approved by federal regulators. The rules would also prevent for-profit charter schools from receiving federal funding.
“Even though Congress recently passed funding for the Charter School Program (CSP) for fiscal year 2022 and ensured that year-over-year funding was not reduced, schools in public charter schools are under attack again,” Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said in a statement.
“The U.S. Department of Education has just proposed new CSP rules and regulations that would disproportionately harm single-site charter schools, as well as Black, Brown, and Indigenous school leaders, and those in rural communities. “, said Rees. “Make no mistake, this is a devious attempt to prevent new charter schools from opening, contrary to the very purpose of CSP.”
Charter school rules in Virginia are already stricter than in many other parts of the country. In the Commonwealth, a charter school must receive approval from local school boards and cannot be approved by the Virginia Department of Education alone. Legislation that would have allowed state approval without local input failed to gain enough support to pass after facing opposition from teachers’ unions and legislative Democrats.
Chris Braunlich, president of the free market Thomas Jefferson Institute, told The Center Square that the rules may not have a significant impact under the state’s current rules because of their restrictive nature.
“Because Virginia’s laws are already more restrictive than what Biden is proposing, I don’t think that would affect Virginia significantly at this time,” Braunlich said. “The problem with the rule is that it protects the systems, not the children, and that is the main point raised by [Democratic] Senator Cory Booker. Biden stands with unions, not students.
Governor Glenn Youngkin has set a goal of establishing 20 new charter schools in Virginia. Currently, there are only seven operating charter schools and an eighth is pending approval in Richmond. A proposal to create lab schools, which would be run by institutions of higher learning, is still being debated by House and Senate lawmakers in a joint conference committee.