What are WV Public Charter Schools Required to do?
In 2019 and 2020, the West Virginia Legislature passed legislation to set up a charter school system in West Virginia. According to the law (W. Va. Code 18-5G-1, et seq.), public charter schools “are intended to empower new, innovative, and more flexible ways of educating all children within the public school system to” improve student learning, allow for innovative education that will result in higher student achievement, and allow for parents to have more choice in their children’s education, among other goals. Id.
Since the passage of this legislation, two brick and mortar charter schools have opened (the Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy in Jefferson County, and West Virginia Academy in Morgantown), along with two virtual schools, with more planned to open this fall. This first phase of openings is to be considered a pilot program, with reports to the state legislature being due every 3 years on the status of said schools.
Public charter schools are subject to general supervision by the West Virginia Board of Education for meeting the student performance standards required of other public school students. They are also required to, among other things:
- Follow “all federal laws and authorities applicable to noncharter public schools in this state including, but not limited to, the same federal nutrition standards, the same civil rights, disability rights and health, life and safety requirements applicable to noncharter public schools in this state;”
- Follow the same attendance requirements as noncharter schools; and
- Follow the same student assessment requirements applicable to noncharter schools in the state, in order for the state board to measure the performance of the charter school.
Public charter schools may develop specialized programs for students “with special needs, including, but not limited to, at-risk students, English language learners, students with severe disciplinary problems at a noncharter public school, or students involved with the juvenile justice system” and may also develop enrollment preferences for these students. Because the charter schools established by the state are public charter schools, they are required to follow all state and federal policies that govern the education of students with disabilities, including West Virginia Board of Education Policy 2419, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Therefore, nonpublic charter schools are tasked with the same obligations as regular school districts to locate, identify, properly evaluate and educate all students suspected of needing special education.