ALBEMARLE COUNTY, VA (NEWSPLEX) Of all the states in the nation that have charter schools, Virginia ranks the worst in giving students access to them, but a new amendment could change that.
The amendment, proposed by Del. Rob Bell, passed in the General Assembly and aims to expand school choice.
"We joined the Senate in passing a constitutional amendment that will clear the way for more charter schools. That will provide options for parents whose kids are struggling with traditional schools," said Bell.
Currently, the decision to establish a charter school lies in the hands of the individual school board. The legislation would put that power into the hands of the state.
Bobbi Snow, who sits on the Virginia State Board of Education Review Committee for Charter Schools, says in the past school districts have been reluctant to set up charter schools because some see it as giving away resources.
"People don't want to give that up, and they don't understand it doesn't need to be a competition. The money follows the student," said Snow.
Of the seven charter schools in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia, two are in Albemarle County. Snow says Albemarle's charter schools are funded through grants, fundraising, and money from the county for teachers.
"We are very lucky in Albemarle County to have a relationship with our school board who is not afraid of innovation," said Snow. "Schools can still be creative, and look at their population, and see who they don't serve."
Oftentimes those students are the ones who don't reach their full potential in the traditional public school.
"A lot of our students are feeling intimidated in larger programs," said Ashby Kindler, principal at both Albemarle County's charter middle and high schools.
She says the goal of charter is to give students autonomy over their own education.
"How do we do things in a way that is more comfortable, more accommodating in a way of movement, and anxiety, and student choice, and student preference and learning style," Kindler said.
Murray high school focuses on a community environment, made up of only 115 students.
"You just feel so much more comfortable with the people here," said senior Graham Johnson.
While the cirriculuim is still in line with state standards, it's tailored to student's passions, and areas where they excel.
"It's really broaden my horizons," freshman Chris Brown said.
Students say the appreciate the teachers who make sure students have mastered their courses.
"You're more confident in yourself because you are doing a better job," said junior Lindsey Earls