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.
Virginia Public Charter School Law
Charter School Legislation
HB 2218 passed by the 2017 General Assembly permits the Board of Education to communicate any Board finding relating to the rationale for the local school board's denial of a public charter school application or revocation of or failure to renew the charter agreement based on documentation submitted by the school board in any school division in which at least half of the schools receive funding pursuant to Title I, Part A, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended.
SB 734 passed by the 2016 General Assembly amended the charter application section; added a section on the applicability of other laws, regulations, policies, and procedures; and amended sections relating to contracts between the local school board and the public charter school management committee to require:
- The local school board and the management committee of the approved public charter school to execute a charter contract within 90 days of approval of a charter application.
- Academic and operational performance expectations and measures in the charter contract that are based on a performance framework with annual performance targets.
- Notification with copy of an executed contract, signed by the chair of the local school board and the chair of the public charter school's management committee, sent to the Board of Education within ten days.
- An executed charter school contract approved in an open meeting of the local school board before a charter school can begin.
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.
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 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.
Public Charter School Application
The application and process were revised to reflect changes to charter schools approved by the General Assembly during the 2016 session (Senate Bill 734). The application process has been updated to reflect HB 2218 passed by the 2017 General Assembly.
- A description of the Virginia Public Charter School Application Process-This is a PDF document. (PDF)
- Virginia Public Charter School Application-This is a Word document. (Word) – The application must be submitted to the Board of Education. The exception is a local school board intending to open a new charter school or to convert an existing school to a charter. In either of those cases, the application would be submitted to the local school board without state board review.
- Criteria Checklist for Virginia Public Charter School Applications-This is a Word document. (Word)
Board of Education Reviews
The Board of Education has aligned its procedures for reviewing charter school proposals pursuant 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 Approved by the Board of Education
U.S. Department of Education Charter School Program Grants
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.
Public Charter School Fund
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).
Charter School Annual Reports
Annually, the Board of Education submits to the Governor a report on the condition and needs of public schools in Virginia. This report articulates major improvements, accomplishments and challenges facing public education in the commonwealth. The charter school report is found in the appendix of the report.
Virginia's Public Charter Schools
There are eight public charter schools operating in Virginia. The Metropolitan Preparatory Academy proposed in Richmond has not received full local board approval.
- 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
- Hillsboro Charter Academy, Loudoun County