CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nancy Bruns chose to drive her two children along winding mountain roads and across county lines to a charter school 10 miles from her home in North Carolina -- even though a public school is within walking distance of their home.
"I love the parent-involvement aspect," Bruns said of the charter school. She once chaired the school's board of directors, made up mostly of parents, with some community leaders and one teacher mixed in.
As a parent, Bruns was required to donate four hours of time each month per child to help out at the school.
Bruns grew up in Charleston and attended Holz Elementary and John Adams Middle schools. Back in town with family on Thursday, she attended a public-policy forum on charter schools at the Culture Center.
West Virginia is one of 10 states without a charter-school law. Charter schools receive public funding, but almost always have more independence than traditional public schools.
For instance, a teacher's job security is much more performance-based at a charter school, where teachers rarely have the protections that public school teachers enjoy.
Esther Jackson, the dean of instruction at Newark Charter School in Delaware, said teachers who know they might not have a job next year are willing to work hard to succeed.
"You're going to bring your 'A' game," Jackson said in a videoconference. That's not always the case with teachers and principals in public schools, she said.
"You've got to get real about what we're doing wrong," she said.
Still, Jackson said, once teachers get into charter schools, "by and large, they don't leave them."
"Their input is valued," she said. "They feel like they're valued."
Teachers in charter schools understand that the increased autonomy means they are more accountable for their school's success, she said.
Charter schools also need plenty of parent and community involvement, Bruns said. For instance, she and others involved at her children's school in North Carolina helped raise money for the facility that the state did not provide.
Nelson Smith, senior adviser for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said each state's charter-school law is different because every state "got there a different way."
Public charter-school students are accepted by lottery.