Most states now allow charter schools
Opponents of charter schools - publicly financed, privately operated - paint them as demon spawn that sap resources from public schools.
But increasing numbers of people, tired of their children being virtual prisoners of failing public schools, are willing to entertain the idea.
As Motoko Rich reported in the New York Times, the number of students in charter schools increased by almost 13 percent between the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. There are now more than 2 million American children in charter schools.
In some districts, the proportion is growing. In New Orleans, that happened because so many city schools were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
"But in other districts, including Detroit, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis, more than 30 percent of public school students attend a charter school," Rich wrote.
Figures from the National Alliance for Public
Charter Schools show that in 110 school districts, at least 10 percent of students attend public charter schools. A year earlier, that could be said of only 96 districts.
In New York City, more than 48,000 kids attended charter schools in the last school year. That's only about 5 percent of the total enrollment, but it grew by 24 percent in just a year.
This is fraying longstanding political alliances.
"For decades, polls have consistently shown that black parents favor vouchers, charter schools and other options that allow their children to escape a system that consigns poor students to violent, dysfunctional learning environments, even while black lawmakers and civil rights organizations typically have sided with teachers unions that oppose such measures," Jason L. Riley of the Wall Street Journal reported recently.
Clearly, many parents are not satisfied with the status quo.
In November, Georgia voters amended the state constitution. It creates a commission that would approve new schools that had been rejected by local school boards.
Voters in Washington State approved an initiative that sets up the Washington Charter School Commission. It will authorize and supervise as many as 40 charter schools over five years.
An indefensible status quo in public education is meeting increasing resistance. Washington became the 42nd state to authorize charter schools.
West Virginia is not one of them.