Local Commentary

Delegate Jim Scott’s Richmond Report


scottmugThe most respected national voice for state legislatures in Washington is the National Conference of State Legislatures, or NCSL.  Its annual meeting each year provides members of all state legislatures the opportunity to discuss common issues, problems and solutions to state and Federal problems.

I was appointed by the Speaker to serve on the Education Committee.  This year the meeting is in Philadelphia. As I write this, we have just finished discussing the NCSL policy on charter schools.  Apparently, the Obama administration is developing policies and incentives to cause states to allow and/or create more charter schools.

It appears that the members of the NCSL Education Committee have differing positions on charter schools. Some states actively promote them; some states discourage them; and some, like Virginia, allow them with few incentives – and few school divisions adopting them. According to NCSL staff, the new Secretary of Education is developing policies to tie Federal funding to push states like Virginia to encourage more charter schools.

Specifically, Secretary Duncan seems serious about telling states like Virginia that some funds appropriated by Congress will not be available unless more charter schools are created.  NCSL, with my support, seems likely to adopt a policy position opposed to that “carrot and stick” approach to education funding.

One reason for opposition is that, while the District of Columbia, has approved several charter schools, Northern Virginia jurisdictions have shown little interest in doing so, partially because Federal promises to fund mandates on local school divisions to implement Federal policy, has rarely been implemented.

Perhaps the most glaring example of Federal promises not kept is the mandate on special education. It was adopted with promises of funding to follow. Some funding did materialize, but nowhere near the full amount required.

Pointing our that charter schools were an “…idea that began as state initiative and as a part of some states overall reform plans…” NCSL thinks it “should stay that way…” partially because “it could have the effect of usurping state chartering authority and preempt state constitutions.”

Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be e-mailed at deljscott@aol.com.