April 19, 2024

Cheryl Binkley: Youngkin’s Charter-Lab Schools Push in 2024

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Cheryl Binkley writes at 4 Public Education, where she lays out just a few of the problems with Governor Glenn Youngkin’s plans for special charter schools.

Two hundred thirty-three amendments: there are so many problems with the Governor’s amendments to the bipartisan budget that it’s hard to know where to start. I mean, who thinks to take retirement funds out of the school buildings and repairs budget?

Governor Youngkin’s administration has been fraught with various forms of misrepresentation, from iffy sole source consultant procurement practices to stacking commissions and boards with conflict of interest candidates, but no initiative has been more flawed than his dream project of establishing 20 charter/Lab schools during his term of office.

Still, Governor Youngkin is determined to open the gates for creating independently run but publicly funded charters in the state of Virginia, and to place authorization firmly at the state level.

Currently, the Governor’s appointees are scrambling to convince universities to submit applications and are changing the approval process to fast track approval of lab schools by removing first review, which limits public input and reduces process transparency. They are desperately trying to get as many as possible in the hopper before June 30 in the hopes that the renewed interest will convince the legislature to approve Governor Youngkin’s $85 million he would like to have for Charter-Lab school implementation.

From the beginning in 2022, Education Secretary Guidera toured the state creating rosy pictures announcing Lab-Charters that would open in Fall 2023 at universities that had not yet submitted even a planning grant application. 

In spite of those glowing promises that 13 Lab Schools might open by fall 2023, by December 2023, only one school, the VCU-CODEVA program was near opening in January 2024 and that “school” incorporated two programs that had already existed. 

Of the 23 planning grant applications only 5 had moved forward to apply for an actual implementation grant, and the legislature declined to reauthorize the remaining $85M in seed money due to expire on June 30. 

The stated goal of the Charter-Labs has been to create innovation and to serve under-served or at-risk students. However, most of the applications piggy back on programs that already exist such as AVID, Dual Enrollment, Coding, and career Health Science courses, and the lottery selection process for “at-risk” students is unclear in at least some of the program profiles. Thus, they are nothing innovative and it is unknown if they will serve the targeted populations.

Read the full post here. 

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