Charter schools provide options for parents and students while allowing communities and educators to create innovative instructional programs that can be replicated elsewhere in the public school system.
All charter schools in Virginia are nonsectarian alternative public schools located within a school division and under the authority of a local school board.
Charter School Legislation
Legislation approved by the 2013 General Assembly in HB 2076 and SB 1131 provides that charter school applications that are initiated by one or more local school boards are not subject to review by the Board of Education. A local school board intending to open a new charter school or convert an existing charter school would still be required to adhere to state charter school law. The division would submit a charter school application for each of the new or conversion schools to its local school board for approval.
Legislation approved by the 2014 General Assembly in HB 157 and SB 276 states that in the conversion of an existing public school, students who attend the school and the siblings of such students shall be given the opportunity to enroll in advance of the lottery process and the requirement that at least one-half of the public charter schools per divisions shall be designed for at-risk students does not apply.
For a local school board intending to open a new charter school or to convert an existing school to a charter, the application could be designed by the local school board as long as it adheres to the Virginia Public Charter School Law (PDF). A local school board, however, may use the application that is presently used by the Virginia Board of Education as a guide in developing the local application, incorporating modifications in HB 157 and SB 276 as relates to conversions. Requirements of the law for applications subject to review by the Board of Education are mirrored in the Board's Virginia Public Charter School Application (Word).
Legislation approved by the 2010 General Assembly increases the level of state support and guidance in the development of charter schools in Virginia to ensure that local school boards receive quality charter school proposals. The legislation (HB 1390 and SB 737):
- Requires charter school applicants to submit the application to the Board of Education for a determination as to whether the application meets the board’s approval criteria prior to submitting the application to the local school board. (NOTE: 2013 General Assembly action does not require charter school applications initiated by local school boards to be reviewed by the Board of Education.)
- Permits the applicant to petition the local school board for reconsideration of a decision to deny, revoke or fail to renew an application.
- Provides that prior to such reconsideration, the applicant may seek technical assistance from VDOE.
- Requires local school boards to give at least 14 days’ notice of intent to receive public comment on a charter school application.
- Provides that if a local school board denies an application, it must provide the applicant with the reasons for the decision and post such reasons on its website.
- Requires local school boards to establish a process for reconsideration, including an opportunity for public comment.
- Allows an applicant to seek technical assistance from VDOE prior to reconsideration by the local school board.
- Provides that upon reconsideration, the decision of the local school board shall be final and not subject to appeal.
- Permits an applicant who has been denied approval to submit a new application.
A Virginia public charter school may be approved or renewed for a period not to exceed five school years; however, the school can be granted multiple renewals that permit operation for more than a total of five years. Amended provisions in the Code of Virginia related to charter schools were passed by the 2012 General Assembly, with the changes becoming effective July 1, 2012.
- More about Virginia Public Charter School Law (PDF)
- A description of the Virginia Public Charter School Application Process (PDF)
- Virginia Public Charter School Application (Word) – The application must be submitted to the Board of Education.
- Criteria Checklist for Virginia Public Charter School Applications (Word)
The Board of Education has aligned its procedures for reviewing charter school proposals pursuit to General Assembly actions in 2010 and 2012.
- Board of Education Charter School Committee schedule and agendas
- Local School Board Actions on Charter Applications that Have Been Denied
The U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) Charter Schools Program (CSP) oversees several grant opportunities each year. Additional information is available on the USED website.
In 2007, the General Assembly created within the treasury a special public charter school fund. Gifts, grants, bequests or donations from public or private sources paid into the state treasury and credited to the fund are used solely for the purposes of establishing or supporting public charter schools. See Criteria for Making Distributions from the Public Charter School Fund (PDF).
The Board of Education reports annually to the governor and General Assembly on charter schools and on the number of charter school applications approved and denied by local school boards. This report is incorporated into the board's Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia.
There are seven public charter schools operating in Virginia.
- Murray High School, Albemarle County
- The Albemarle Community Public Charter School, Albemarle County
- Middleburg Community Charter School, Loudoun County
- York River Academy, York County
- Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, Richmond
- Green Run Collegiate, Virginia Beach
- Richmond Career Education and Employment Academy, Richmond