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In other, more charter-friendly states, there are multiple authorizers -- universities, state boards, even specially created bodies with expertise in charter school creation. The new bill before the state House and Senate will give the Board of Education an advising role on charter school applications prior to going before the local school board.

Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts opened Aug. 11, 2010 making it the 10th charter school to open in the state of Virginia since charter schools were allowed to open in 1998. However, if history repeats itself, Patrick Henry will have a bumpy road ahead. Including Patrick Henry only three charter schools are operating currently in the state of Virginia and Patrick Henry is the only one operating in the city of Richmond. At one time there were nine charter schools in Virginia, but most of them closed due to financial reasons. (citation)

According to the Richmond Time Dispatch "Charter school funding is as much a political decision as it is a pure per-pupil funding issue. And given that the government body in the commonwealth that approves a charter application does not have taxing authority, this makes funding a two-step process," said Virginia Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson. "So any funding discussion must keep this in mind."

As charter schools go in the state of Virginia, Patrick Henry is somewhat unique. Patrick Henry is receiving the state's per-pupil dollar funding, an action that sets it apart from the other charter schools in Virginia. With this new funding policy, the bulk of Patrick Henry's overhead is in guaranteed place as long as the school can attract and keep students. Ironically, the school is still responsible for capital improvements to its building, a bill that could exceed $1 million. Currently, the school is still in need of funding.

The school's biggest requirement is making the building handicap-accessible, a requirement that could cost $1 million. Patrick Henry has found about half of that in grant funding, which will be dispersed over three years, but actual dollar support from the community has been harder to find. "What we keep hearing from people is that they'd like to see the program up and running first," said Kristen Larson in the Richmond Times Dispatch, who has been on the Patrick Henry board for about a year and a half.

In November 2007, the school hired professional fundraisers, who spent several months helping the board get its message out. As a result an aggressive fundraising campaign was initiated with a goal of raising $300,000. To date, the school has only raised a little more than $100,000 total in three years, with a quarter of the funding coming from Gov. Bob McDonnell, donated some of his inaugural committee's surplus funds to the cause.

Patrick Henry has faced an uphill just to get started and has received very little support from Richmond Public School System (RPS). From the onset school officials were against the idea and lobbied against the school before the School Board, and then it took three votes in a five-month period before the board granted approval. RPS and the advocates for the charter school have never been on the same page, even the simplest of agreements such as location often became highly contested debates.

Interim Summary

The literature review contained within this chapter provided general and specific information about the current charter school policy in the state of Virginia.

CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY

Overview

Chapter three will detail the research methodology used for this project. The goal of the researcher is to design the research process in a direction that would lead to answering the following four questions: What education policies have led to the establishment of charter schools in other states? What policies exist in the state of Virginia in regards to public and charter schools, what is the relation of charter schools to the public school system in the state of VA? What other public barriers to the establishment of charter schools exist in the state of Virginia? How can the barriers be mitigated through policy reforms?

Research Typology

"The first step in any policy analysis is to define the problem. Everyone knows what the word problem means, but for policy analysts the term specifically refers to the existence of an unsatisfactory set of conditions for which relief is sought, either through private means or from the government." (Kraft & Furlong, 2007, p. 97) the researcher chose a topic of interest and explored and expanded his knowledge of the chosen subject. The policy analysis methodology was chosen as the appropriate typology. "The most common approach to policy analysis is to picture it as a series of analytical steps or stages, which are the elements in rational problem solving" (Bardach, 2005; MacRae and Whittington 1997 as cited by Kraft & Furlong, 2007, p. 97). "According to the models of rational decision making, one defines a problem, indicates the goals and objectives to be sought, considers a range of alternative solutions, evaluates each of the alternatives to clarify their consequences, and then recommends or chooses the alternative with the greatest potential for solving the problem. This process is similar to the way most people make everyday decisions, although they do it much more casually." (Kraft & Furlong, 2007, p. 97) There is a method, or set of five procedural steps, in the policy analysis process as indicated below. (Kraft & Furlong, 2007, p 98)

1. Define and analyze the problem.

a. As examples it addresses: What?

b. Where?

c. Who or what?

d. And sometimes: the How?

2. Construct policy alternatives.

a. Options to policies can be considered.

b. A think tank approach can be applied.

3. Develop evaluative criteria.

4. Assess the alternatives.

5. Draw conclusions.

a. This portion is where one would evaluate which policy options is the most desirable given the circumstances and the evaluative criteria.

b. This area is also where other factors affecting the issue should be considered.

To facilitate and maximize learning and organizational skills, the researcher developed a comprehensive research work calendar using the bottom line upfront planning approach, beginning the work with the end state and timelines in mind, and then moving forward to the present requirement(s). This schedule included peer meetings, email exchanges and adequate time provided to conduct the needed research outside of the classroom setting. Some methodological decisions had to be structured the researchers work schedule and military responsibilities. Decisions were made to maximize research and writing time. The course instructor provided the researcher with a highly recommended process outline to use as a guide for subject headings and sub-headings. The outline became a viable model to emulate and the researcher followed the guide's fundamental structure to complete the research process and final proposal.

Data Collection Methods

"Beyond gathering basic information about the problem, analysts want to identify its causes, which is not always an easy task. Without a good idea of how and why the problem came about, it is difficult to think usefully about possible solutions to it. This kind of diagnosis of the problem is akin to what a physician does when a patient is ill or what a mechanic does when a car is not running properly" (Kraft & Furlong, 2007, p. 99). During the initial stages of this project, the course instructor emphasized repetitively that the researcher should clearly and carefully define the topic and the associated problem. The researcher decided that the scope of the project had to remain manageable, concentrated, and purposeful in order to lead the reader to understanding the logical step-by-step analysis.

"Policy analysis usually involves collecting and interpreting information that clarifies the causes and effects of public problems and the likely consequences of using one policy option or another to address them. Because public problems can be understood only through the insights of many disciplines, policy analysis draws from the ideas and methods of economics, political science, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and various technical fields" (Anderson, 2006; Weimer and Vining 2005 as cited by Kraft & Furlong, 2007, p. 95).

Data Analysis Plan

To remain focused and keep within the scope of the project, the researcher developed four critical questions that were reiterated in the introduction of this chapter. Analysis of research data provided insight as to how to best answer the questions. The researcher compared notes, vetted the issues, and then settled on a final product. A level of synthesis and synchronization in the data questions and in the aligned research results became apparent. The perceptions and realities of charter schools in Virginia were explored and information was absorbed and consolidated from the literature review.

Using a well-thought out process, an analytical and sensible approach was applied. "Policy analysis falls into three broad categories: scientific, professional, and political. All serve valid purposes, but they have varying goals and objectives and use different methods (Kraft & Furlong, 2007, p. 105)." The research team's review of the issues surrounding the NSPS fell into all three of the…[continue]

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