House Education chair makes case for public charter schools

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House Education chair makes case for public charter schools
By Shauna Johnson, MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One of the biggest advocates for the addition of public charter schools in West Virginia is House Education Committee Chair Amanda Pasdon (R-Monongalia, 51).

She said, right now, there’s not a lot of choice in the public education system.

“You’re kind of forced into a one-size-fits-all approach. Our counties are forced to be regulated from Charleston and we’ve got to give our counties flexibility to do what they see fit and what fits their communities,” Pasdon said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

A day earlier, a public hearing focused on public charter schools, which would receive state money but operate independently, was held at the State Capitol with those speaking evenly split among supporters and opponents of the idea.

During that hearing, Pasdon said she did not hear anything that changed her mind about, what she sees as, a need for another option — with the ultimate decision being left up to county school officials.

“If there’s a county that says, ‘Look, I have a need for this. This is how the funding will happen. This is where it will be housed. This is what the structure will look that,’ then it absolutely allows that flexibility for them to make that decision,” she explained.

“They would be responsible for figuring out where the funding came from. The way our School Aid Formula is structured, dollars do move with students.”

Both the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers, the two teacher organizations in the Mountain State, oppose the measure. Representatives of those groups have argued for more resources to improve the existing traditional schools.

A total of 42 states and Washington, D.C. currently have charter schools.

Pasdon said state officials are learning about the best practices for public charter schools from those other areas.

“The models that we have seen (that are) most successful are those where it was from the ground up, from the bottom up, where the county was involved, the communities were involved and they really had a model that was built from within,” she said.

As of Thursday morning, a House version of the charter schools bill had not yet been introduced.

On the Senate side, the proposed West Virginia Public Charter Schools Act of 2015 was on the agenda for the Senate Education Committee’s Thursday meeting.