Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chris Saxman advocates charter school choices for Virginia students

He has been a school teacher, is an elected public official and a local business owner, a husband, dad of four children, and avid Pittsburg Steelers fan ... and he is currently finishing out his fourth term in the Virginia General Assembly's House of Delegates representing the people of Staunton, western Augusta County, Highland County, and parts of Rockingham County.

One of his interests has been the possibility of school choice for Virginia students, something he has successfully advanced in the House the past five years but then running into the roadblock known as the Senate.

He is Del. Chris Saxman (R-Staunton) who recently talked with the Waynesboro News Virginian's Bob Stuart about his interest in education, his desire to see more charter schools in the Commonwealth, and his current work as co-chairman of Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell's education transition team.

One of those interests is charter schools, something Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell wants to prioritize in his new administration along with an increase in funds available for public school classrooms.

The ability to increase the number of charter schools may face a hurdle under the current Virginia charter school law that has been labeled the second weakest in the nation, something public education proponents do not want to see change. According to the News Virginian:
Kitty Boitnott, president of the Virginia Education Association, has said the state charter school law is constitutional and appropriate.

And she has questioned in interviews and opinion pieces whether charter schools really work.

“We owe it to our students to provide the highest quality climate as opposed to opening up the front door and calling it a charter school,’’ Boitnott told The News Virginian earlier this month.

Still, McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said, the incoming administration is committed to changing both public school funding formulas and the lowly status of charter schools in Virginia.
Another hurdle is school boards:
School boards currently determine whether to allow charter schools. Critics say that’s a problem because public school boards have a vested interest in blocking charters.
Del. Saxman is not deterred, remaining optimistic in his desire to better Virginia's educational choices:
A longtime proponent of charter schools and a former schoolteacher, Saxman is sanguine about McDonnell’s chances to alter public school spending and charter school law. He cites as helpful the state’s education hierarchy, made up of a state-appointed superintendent of public instruction and an appointed board of education.

“We have a system to collaborate,’’ he said. “It is less political than it could be.”

While other states elect public instruction leaders, Virginia’s is nominated by the governor and must be approved by both the state House and Senate.

“That person becomes independent and nonpartisan,’’ Saxman said of the state superintendent. “That person has to exercise independent judgement.”
School choice. It's time to open educational opportunities for all students.

Update: Also covered at Augusta Conservative.

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