•  
  •  
 

Abstract

The widespread success of charter school 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's charter school program, we suggest that three important political variables have been largely overlooked to date. The "weak" form of Virginia's charter school legislation can be attributed in large part to: (1) the schism between the educationally privileged communities of Northern Virginia and those of the rest of the state, (2) the lack of a perceived educational crisis, and (3) the vocal presence of minority opposition. Teacher organizations did not strongly oppose charter school legislation, but they worked to ensure that legislation would be mild. In examining the political gestation of Virginia's "weak" charter school law, this study complements existing work that has generally concentrated on "strong" laws in states like Arizona, Colorado, and Michigan. The struggle for passage in Virginia illuminates many tensions less evident in states where charter schooling passed more easily.