Obenshain Statement on Failure of Charter School Bill in Senate Committee

February 3, 2022

RICHMOND – Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) issued the following statement in response to the failure of the Senate Education and Health Committee to  report the charter school bill, SB 125 on a vote of 7-8 earlier today. 

“I am extremely disappointed by our failure to pass the regional charter school bill this morning.  It is always hard for good policy to overcome political interests.   Sadly, those paying the highest price for this action are children in a handful of localities with failing schools,” Obenshain said.

“I believe all children deserve a quality education regardless of their zip code.  I consider myself an ‘all of the above’ guy when it comes to improving our education system and charter schools is just one piece of the puzzle. My bill would have extended a lifeline to areas with underperforming schools, giving parents another option for their children to receive better educational opportunities.   There are only 7 charter schools in Virginia.  To me this is completely unacceptable.  We had an opportunity today to really make a difference in the lives and education of children but due to the party line vote, the Democrats in the Senate turned their back on our children,” Obenshain added. 

SB 125 (which can be viewed here) would have created regional charter school divisions made up of two or three school divisions. A division would be eligible to participate if it meets two sets of criteria:  they have an enrollment of greater than 3,000 students and their SOL scores for English and Math in grades 3-8 are in the bottom quartile of the Commonwealth. 

45 states and the District of Columbia have charter schools.   Charter schools have only been around since the 1990s and studies show that they are most successful in school divisions that are not performing well.  They can free up constraints that have been imposed on school divisions and work “outside the box” to provide a quality education to the students they serve. 

“I will not give up the fight for education reform, charter schools and opportunities for Virginia’s children.  I believe that this will make the most difference in the lives of our children, more than anything else that we do here at the General Assembly,” Obenshain concluded.

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate.  The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He serves on the Senate Judiciary; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; and Transportation Committees.