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The Charleston Gazette: Charter — Sad example

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The Charleston Gazette: Charter — Sad example

On this final day of the session, the 2015 Legislature seems likely to add West Virginia to 43 states that authorize charter schools — special schools supported by tax money but operated by private owners under outside contracts, independent from county school systems and teacher unions.

Last week, the state Senate approved the schools in an 18-16 party-line vote. Then the House Education Committee removed language forbidding the schools to discriminate against gay students, teachers and staff.

The issue remained in limbo Friday night.America had no charter schools until the 1990s, but now they have blossomed nationwide. At latest count, America has 6,400 of the special schools, with 2.5 million students. However, they aren’t always successful — 200 charter schools that functioned in 2013 went kaput before 2014.

An outstanding example of failure is a Florida school cofounded by top Republican Jeb Bush. He spent years spearheading Liberty City Charter School in Miami — but now it’s an abandoned hulk, forlorn in ruins.

A front-page New York Times account related:When he ran for Florida governor in 1994, Bush alienated minority voters by blurting clumsily that he would do “probably nothing” for blacks. He narrowly lost the election. Seeking more black support, Bush teamed up with an African-American reformer to launch the charter school in a poor inner-city ghetto in 1996.

Bush raised more than $300,000 for the school and promoted it tirelessly, often wearing old clothes to join painting volunteers or posing with happy students for news photos.Bush won the governorship in 1998 and again in 2002.

Meanwhile, his school sank into money problems and lawsuits with a landlord. In 2008, the public school system terminated Liberty City’s contract.

If Gov. Tomblin signs the charter schools bill and the movement spreads in West Virginia, we hope it doesn’t produce failures like Jeb Bush’s.