RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Several measures are making their way through the General Assembly that would allow school divisions with at least two unaccredited schools to join forces and ask the state for permission to create a charter school to help those students.

Lawmakers say it’s an attempt to help students most in need at struggling schools across the state.

“I’m not saying charter schools are the answer for everything, but they certainly are the answer for some of our children,” Delegate Tag Greason, R-Loudoun County, said.

Greason, a co-sponsor of one of those bills, says the bills are not a knock on public schools, but a realization that public schools shouldn’t be the only path to success for some students.

“I have 3 kids in our public school system. I think they do a very, very good job, but one size does not fit all,” said Greason.

When it comes to charter schools, Virginia lags way behind neighboring states and the country with just nine.

“There are significantly more charter schools in North Carolina, and Maryland,” said Chris Braunlich with The Jefferson Institute, a non-partisan agency that analyzes a variety of issues. “There are significantly more charter schools just about everywhere.”

Braunlich supports the proposals and says a majority of unaccredited schools come from the same localities year after year.

“One of them has been denied accreditation for 11 straight years,” Braunlich said. “Those children deserve a better chance.”

“Any school that’s unaccredited is not a bad school because it’s unaccredited,” added Donald Wilms with the Chesterfield Education Association. “It’s simply a school that has higher needs that aren’t being met,”

Wilms says he’s concerned public schools could lose much-needed tax dollars to charter schools while reaching the same results.

“The results on charter schools overall, you spread them out across the whole country, are no better than the results from public education,” Wilms said.

But advocates say funding would not be affected and bringing in proven charter school programs will be key to students succeeding.

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