As I wrote at the Examiner the other day, a “bipartisan” group of state legislators has introduced legislation in Olympia that would, once again, attempt to abdicate the state’s responsibility for ensuring a quality basic education to our children by experimenting with the “charter schools” scheme in our state. Charter schools have been three times rejected by the voters in this state. Apparently these legislators believe that they will have a better chance of pushing this agenda on us under the guise of “budget reform.”
Democrats: Eric Pettigrew (37th LD), Fred Finn (35th LD), Deb Eddy (48th LD), Larry Springer (45th LD), Larry Seaquist (25th LD)
Republicans: Glenn Anderson (5th LD), Cathy Dahlquist (31st), Paul Harris (17th LD), Bill Hinkle (13th LD), Maureen Walsh (16th LD), Hans Zeiger (25th LD), Larry Haler (8th LD), J.T. Wilcox (2nd LD), Mark Hargrove (47th LD), Susan Fagan (8th LD), Cary Condotta (12th LD)
Democrats: Rodney Tom (48th LD), Jim Kastama (25th LD), Paull Shin (21st LD), Steve Hobbs (44th LD), Brian Hatfield (19th LD), Tim Sheldon (35th LD)
Republicans: Steve Litzow (41st LD), Michael Baumgartner (6th LD), Joe Fain (47th LD), Doug Ericksen (42nd LD), Andy Hill (45th LD), Randi Becker (2nd LD), Jerome Delvin (8th LD), Curtis King (14th LD), Mike Hewitt (16th LD), Dan Swecker (20th LD), Cheryl Pflug (5th LD)
Coming on the heels of the recent State Supreme Court finding that the state is failing in its paramount duty to fully fund basic education in our state, this group of lawmakers (which includes noted conservadems Steve Hobbs and Brian Hatfield from the infamous Roadkill Caucus, and the state’s most prominent DINO, Tim Sheldon) believes that the answer is to gamble what funds we do have on an unproven scheme that has as much potential for harm as it may have for good.
As I noted in my piece at the Examiner, there are as many horror stories as success tales for charter schools in the various states that are already experimenting with them. From The Bronx, New York comes the headline: Bronx Charter School'sFailure Highlights Failure of Charter Schools which begins, “Despite support from Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama, and the corporate establishment, charter schools in New York City and everywhere else have yet to prove that they can solve the problem that is America’s education system. In the South Bronx, the Academic Leadership Charter School has been put on probation this week for not randomizing admissions—as charter schools are supposed to do—and possibly testing or interviewing applicants, which they are not…”
There is this from Trenton, New Jersey: Once-promisingcharter schools go off course - They're favored by reformers, but have a highrate of failure : "Three years ago, Capital Preparatory Charter High School opened to much fanfare and was hailed as a formidable challenge to standard high schools -- a taxpayer-funded college preparatory program that might teach the regular public schools something about how to educate children… Yet somehow things went terribly wrong at Capital Prep. The Grand Street school accumulated a large deficit, lacked a certified business administrator and was spending taxpayer dollars in ways that had little educational value, the DOE later found.
The school spent $10,000 on hotel fees for a staff junket to Atlantic City, $5,600 on a year-end staff party at KatManDu restaurant, and $38,000 on flower boxes and campus landscaping. Visiting DOE staff also found "a weak educational program, lacking in rigor and not meeting the goals set forth in the school's charter," a spokesman said. After a period of probation, the school was finally pressured to give up its charter in May, and the New Jersey State Police opened an investigation into school spending practices.”
And this from Miami, Florida: FCAT Results: Charter Schools Have High Failure Rate – “In his first visit to South Florida as governor, Rick Scott visited Florida International Academy, a charter school operated with public money by a private, for-profit company. Scott – a big charter school booster – said the school in Opa Locka could serve as a model for the rest of the state. But in FCAT [Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test] grades released last week, Florida International Academy’s elementary school scored an “F.” In Miami-Dade, a greater percentage of charter schools failed than public schools. Every school that got an “F” in Broward County was a charter school.”
These articles are only a minute sampling of the failures in charter schools, and there certainly are many success stories, however the argument for our state lawmakers should not be ‘how can we experiment with the system’ but rather, ‘how can we make the existing system better?’ At a time when our students are being turned into door to door salesmen to raise funds for basic needs in the classroom and our teachers are taking money from their own pockets to buy pencils, paper, and in some cases, textbooks for the students they have been charged with educating; at time when the governor is suggesting that school become a part-time endeavor to save money; at a time when even our Supreme Court has told them that the real problem in our schools is lack of funding, these lawmakers would rather gamble with what funds we have than sit down with the very people who serve on the front lines of this issue, our public school teachers and administrators, to seek real solutions.
In a statement from the Washington Education Association (WEA), the largest public school teachers’ organization in the state, association President, Mary Lindquist said,
“On three occasions, the people of Washington have rejected charter schools at the ballot box. That's three strikes. Charter schools are little more than an unfilled promise to our students. They simply skim off those children whose parents have the time and capability to fill out endless applications.
As educators, WEA members are deeply committed to making sure all our students receive a quality education -- an education that both inspires them and equips them for the challenges of the 21st Century workplace. Across the state, there are countless examples of innovative schools doing exactly that. What we're seeing in these innovative schools is a return on investment we can all get behind.
Sen. Tom and Rep. Pettigrew should be working on the full funding challenge presented to them last week by the state Supreme Court. The people of Washington are demanding full public education funding for their children and neighborhood schools. Charter schools are a distraction from the real debate and not a full funding solution."
To be sure, the lines are being drawn in the legislature over this issue. 38th LD State Representative Mike Sells said this,
“Charter schools have been a mixed bag of success and failure--although we can never trust the results, because quite often they don't meet the same mandates to serve everyone that a public school does. You can do a Google search and see a lot of the articles. What you have read is pretty accurate.
Right now you have groups that call themselves Stand With [For] Children and the League of Education Voters; (astro-turf groups funded by corporations) buttressed by Boeing pushing Charter Schools as some sort of panacea. I guess they haven't noticed the decision this week regarding $8 billion of underfunding to schools that the Supreme Court iterated in their latest ruling. We don't have the money to let them experiment with our kids' futures, let alone the moral issue of doing that. Our kids should not be for sale.”
If you agree with Rep. Sells and support your local educators, please contact your legislators (and the list above) and let them know that now is not the time to gamble with the limited funding available to our public schools and stand up for our children and grandchildren by opposing this new assault on our public schools.
Chad (The Left) Shue