Teachers across the state of West Virginia walked out last spring. Every school in the state was closed until the teachers got a 5% pay raise and other concessions. Among them, the governor promised to block charter legislation.

Now the Republican dominated legislature is moving forward with legislation for charters, vouchers, and cybercharters. One assumes this is punishment for last year’s actions.

Denis Smith warns the legislators and people of West Virginia that the legislation is an invitation to waste, fraud, abuse, theft, and grifters. 

He writes:

In the last several days, I took some time to examine Senate Bill 451 and its provisions for establishing charter schools in West Virginia. My interest in doing so was based on my previous service as a school administrator in the state, as well as 11 years of experience in Ohio as an administrator for a charter school authorizer and as a consultant in the charter school office of the Ohio Department of Education.

It is this experience in both public education and the charter school environment that allows me to urge West Virginia citizens to do everything possible to halt this odious legislation.

After more than 20 years of growth nationally, it is noteworthy that some of the trend lines for charters are on the decline. This experiment with deregulation has resulted in massive corruption, fraud and diminished learning opportunities for young people.

As a state monitor, I observed a number of incompetent people serve as charter school administrators because Ohio state law has no minimum educational requirements nor any professional licensing prerequisites for school leaders.

In addition, numerous conflicts-of-interest, including a board member serving as landlord and management companies charging exorbitant rents for properties conveniently used for charter schools, are only part of the problem of the charter experiment.

In Ohio, where charters have operated for 20 years, the trend line is down significantly. From a high point of more than 400 schools, 340 are operating today. Moreover, there is a junk pile of failed charters that have closed. The Ohio Department of Education website lists 292 schools that are shuttered, with some closing in mid-year, disrupting the lives of students and their families. Moreover, total charter school enrollment in the state is down by more than 16,000 students since 2013, the peak year of charter operations in the Buckeye State.

The West Virginia omnibus measure allows online schools to operate, as does Ohio and other states. But last year, Ohio’s Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, one of the largest e-schools in the country, closed amid scandal, where the owner and his administrators funneled millions of dollars in donations to friendly state legislators while padding enrollment numbers to gain state education payments.

In my home state of Pennsylvania, there is also a growing scandal involving an online school. The West Virginia Legislature has not heeded these lessons to be learned from its neighboring states that have been in the troubled charter school business for decades.