After years of frustration, Virginia parents finally have reason to celebrate. Legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) will create new, innovative schools throughout the commonwealth. Families frazzled by years of coronavirus-related school shutdowns and outraged by the curriculums taught in their public schools could eventually have more options for their sons and daughters.

The budget package that Youngkin signed into law last month included $100 million for university-administered “lab schools” in Virginia. Of the appropriation, $5 million will go toward planning grants for parties interested in creating lab schools, including public universities, community colleges and select nonprofit colleges, and $20 million of the appropriation would go toward lab schools’ start-up expenses, with the remaining $75 million used to support per-pupil educational costs.

Most other states — 45, to be exact — already have the types of innovative schools Youngkin is envisioning. These charter schools receive public funds but operate outside many of the bureaucratic regulations and restrictions that can stifle creativity among teachers and principals. In these states, parents appreciate the options charter schools provide and value the accountability for results required as part of an institution’s charter.

Unfortunately, Virginia law requires local school boards to approve the creation of each new charter school. And most Virginia school boards will not endorse any model that serves as “competition” for the traditional public schools they run — even if that competition would benefit Virginia families and students. As a result, the entire commonwealth had but seven charter schools in 2021, serving only about 0.1 percent of the student population statewide.

The $100 million appropriation for lab schools will allow Virginia to begin catching up with the rest of the country on educational innovation, giving universities the opportunity to bring their skills to bear on the best ways to educate young people. Already, George Mason University has indicated that it wants to work with Northern Virginia Community College and Fairfax County Public Schools to create a lab school in Northern Virginia. Youngkin has said that other universities also have expressed interest.

More applicants would come to the table to create lab schools if Virginia lawmakers went further by allowing public school funding to follow each student who selects a lab school. This proposal would provide the ultimate form of accountability by allowing dollars to flow to the schools that are best meeting parents’ and students’ needs. Hopefully, Democrats in the state Senate will rethink their opposition to this concept once the lab-school model has proved its worth in Virginia.

As the mother of two school-age children, I recognize the ways in which the past two years have put parents and students through so many traumas — school shutdowns and quarantines, problems with virtual education, mask mandates, lost learning and more. And as the mother of a child with a disability, I know full well the added hardships that special-needs parents face trying to find an educational program that will allow their children to grow and thrive.

But after all that suffering finally comes a ray of hope. Youngkin has delivered on one of his key promises — to empower parents with more and better educational choices. Not only will parents throughout the commonwealth benefit from this promise kept, but the next generation of Virginians will, too.