Overview

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. The estimated number of Virginia charter school students (2016-2017) is 1,239  (< 0.1%  of all school age children).  All charter schools in Virginia are nonsectarian alternative public schools located within a school division and under the authority of a local school board.  The public charter school law can be found here.

Currently, there are eight operating Charter Schools in Virginia, each with a different mission and focus (see Table).  Click on the School link in the table to learn more about each school.

Division School Year Opened Grades Served
Albemarle County Murray High School 2001-2002 9-12
York County York River Academy 2002-2003 9-12
Albemarle County The Community Public Charter School 2008-2009 6-8
Richmond City Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts 2010-2011 K-5
Virginia Beach City Green Run Collegiate 2013-2014 9-12
Richmond City Richmond Career Education & Employment Academy 2013-2014 8-12
Loudoun County Middleburg Community Charter School 2014-2015 K-5
Loudoun County Hillsboro Charter Academy 2016-2017 K-5

Learning Options

Pursuant to its charter agreement, a public charter school is responsible for its own operational matters as are specified in the charter agreement, including but not limited to: budget preparation, contracts for services, and personnel.  A public charter school may operate free from specified school division policies and state regulations, but, as public schools, shall be subject to the requirements of the Standards of Quality, including the Standards of Learning and the Standards of Accreditation.  Nothing precludes a public charter school from establishing additional student assessment measures that go beyond state requirements if the Local School District approves such measures.

Enrollment in a public charter school is open to any child who is deemed to reside within the relevant school division or, in the case of a regional public charter school, within any of the relevant school divisions, through a lottery process on a space-available basis.  A waiting list shall be established if adequate space is not available to accommodate all students whose parents have requested to be entered in the lottery process.

Learning options and methods of instruction are defined by the Charter and approved by the local school district.  Therefore learning options may widely vary between Charter Schools, much like private schools. For example, Green Run Collegiate has a global learning focus, whereas York River Academy’s niche is computer technology and web design.  

In a survey of Virginia voters, 10% of respondents said they would prefer to send their child to a charter school, even though less than 0.1 % currently do.  A principal reason for this difference is that, in Virginia, the local school district is the principal authorizer of Charter schools and does little to: (1) differentiate between charters and their district counterparts; (2) encourage the growth in the number of charter schools; (3) provide charter schools with meaningful autonomy.  A 2013 survey found that states with strong, multiple chartering authorities have almost three and a half times more charter schools than states that only allow local board approval.

Legislation has been introduced to improve the climate for charter schools in Virginia.  House bill HB3 (2016) was introduced by Delegate Robert Bell to place a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot that would  grant the Board of Education the authority to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth, subject to any criteria or conditions that the General Assembly may prescribe. The measure passed the House, but was tabled in the Senate.   If Virginians want charter schools, additional legislation must be enacted to remove the barriers to charter school authorization.

Contact your state and federal representatives here.