Trey Kay Published

West Virginia Joining 42 Other States That Offer Charter Schools

Us & Them - Charter School Image
West Virginia's Charter School Era Begins
Lalena Price

West Virginia is now the 42nd state to introduce public charter schools as an educational choice for parents and students. A new state law allows for the creation of 10 charter schools over the next three years. That can include two virtual charter schools. A state authorizing board is reviewing seven applications that are required to follow the same rules and regulations that public schools do, but charters can offer more flexibility to adapt and adjust learning approaches.

In some states like Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina and California more than 10 percent of students now attend charter schools. The educational reform movement got its start 30 years ago in Minnesota and in the past three decades, charters have created an us-and-them divide.

Despite their popularity and expansion, some people oppose charter schools. They say charters drain students and resources from traditional public schools. When students attend a charter program, state funding moves with them. We’ll hear from students, parents, teachers and leaders about West Virginia’s decision to bring in charters — and a lawsuit that claims the plan is unconstitutional.

For this episode, Us & Them host Trey Kay speaks with West Virginia State Senator Patricia Rucker, who championed the landmark legislation to permit charter schools in the Mountain State. Kay also checks in with people involved in the charter debate on the national level. He speaks with Joe Nathan, who helped write the nation’s first charter public school law and Diane Ravitch, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education in President George H. W. Bush’s Administration. Ravitch was once a supporter of charters, but is now one of the nation’s most outspoken opponents.

This episode of Us & Them is presented with support from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the CRC Foundation and the West Virginia Humanities Council.

Subscribe to Us & Them on Apple Podcasts, NPR One, RadioPublic, Spotify, Stitcher and beyond. You also can listen to Us & Them on WVPB Radio — tune in tonight, Oct. 28, at 8 p.m., or listen to the encore presentation on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 3 p.m.

Patricia Rucker - March 25 2021 - Senate Chamber.jpg

Will Price
WV Legislative Photography
Senate Education Chair Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, speaks during a Senate floor session on March 25, 2021. Rucker was a champion of West Virginia’s new charter school law.
Diane Ravitch is a former assistant secretary of education. She currently works as a research professor of education at New York University.

Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf Publishers
Diane Ravitch is a former assistant secretary of education. She is one of the leading opponents of charter schools nationally.

Education Writers Association
Since 1970, Joe Nathan has worked with traditional and chartered public schools as a teacher, administrator, parent, PTA president and researcher. Nathan helped write the nation’s first charter school law and Minnesota’s law.