The Passage of Charter Legislation in Virginia: The Role of Resistance, Party, and Regional Tension

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Abstract

The widespread success of charter legislation has fostered a perception that charter schooling is apolitical and has clouded our understanding of the politics of the issue. In a case study of Virginia, we suggest that three important political variables have been largely overlooked to date. The “weak” form of Virginia's charter legislation can be attributed in large part to the schism between Northern Virginia's educationally privileged communities and the rest of the state, the presence of vocal minority opposition, and the fact that teacher organizations did not strongly oppose charter legislation, but did work to ensure that any bill would be mild. In portraying the political gestation of a “weak” law, this study complements existing work that has generally concentrated on “strong” laws in states like Arizona, Colorado, and Michigan. The tortuous struggle for passage in Virginia illuminates many tensions less evident in states where charter schooling passed more easily.

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