I received a rather disturbing news release this week from the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board. The piece detailed a $12.3 million federal grant to expand charter schools in West Virginia.
With these federal tax dollars, the WVPCSB intends to double the number of authorized charter schools (now 4 – that will make 8) in the state and triple the number of students enrolled in charter schools by 2028. The PCSB plans to administer eight subgrants over the grant period—five to newly created charter schools and three to expanding charter schools already serving West Virginians. The subgrant competitions are expected to begin in December, with awards announced in April.
West Virginia’s inaugural four charter schools opened in the Fall of 2022 and have 1,200 certified enrollees. The federal grant award—in conjunction with West Virginia’s recently enacted (but not-yet-funded) Charter Schools Stimulus Fund—will make West Virginia a more attractive place for quality developers to open and expand schools, the news release said.
What it didn’t say is that this is a two-fold attack on public education. First, this is our federal tax dollars at work. The main task seems to be to broaden the attack on the already problematic financial world surrounding our public schools in the Mountain State.
I have previously written in this space about the money that charter schools have already taken from public education. Currently, that figure hovers around $5 million, if memory serves me correctly. The news release says the federal grant will “triple the number of students enrolled in charter schools by 2028.” That will amount to another $10 million being taken from public education. How devastating will that be on an already cloudy financial picture? Will programs decrease? Will taxes rise to compensate for the shortage? There are literally a ton of unanswered questions that surround this whole mess. All I know is that taking public money to fund private schools is not the answer.
And then there is the matter of this… Charter Schools Stimulus Fund. The news release says it has not yet been funded. Where is the money going to come from? The republican controlled legislature didn’t seem to have any problem forcing the charter school bill through. Why haven’t they come up with a funding stream for this additional shot at public education – the Charter Schools Stimulus Fund? When will our leaders wake up and see just how detrimental this is going to be for the vast majority of our children that rely on public education?