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Charter Schools — Initiative 1240

Many of my friends and colleagues are asking me about how to vote on Charter Schools. I voted Yes. Here’s why:My attitude about charters is Why not? What we have now is definitely not working.

  • We have to quit thinking of schools in a one-size-fits-all fashion. Current schools work for some kids. Charter schools will work for some others. We will need still other solutions for other kids.

  • Charter schools are public schools that have more flexibility but operate under a performance agreement. So a charter school can be closed if it does not meet performance goals. They must follow state student performance standards, assessments, and data reporting requirements. They are publicly funded and do not charge tuition. They are open to all students and if there are more students who apply than available seats, a lottery is used. Access cannot be restricted based on learning needs. Under the initiative, they have to be nonprofit.
  • One benefit of charters is that they shape expectations. Some still think that poor and new immigrant kids cannot be successful in school so they don’t even try to educate them. Charters prove that they can be educated and thwart that excuse.
  • Some people say that charter schools are not proven effective. But studies also show that many charter schools are very impactful. We now have 20 years of charter experience. The Washington Initiative is carefully drafted to learn from the lessons of other states and some consider it one of the strongest in the country. This article gives a good overview of the research. http://www.researchcouncil.org/docs/PDF/WRCGovernance/Initiative1240Charters.pdf
  • Some people say that Charter Schools drain the best kids from public schools. Parent engagement is important to a child’s success and parents who are attuned enough to sign up for a charter school or school lottery are more engaged than others. I have several responses here. First the research does not really play this out – see the article above. Second, the initiative allows 40 schools over five years in all of Washington State which is not enough to huge impact. Finally, if parent engagement is an issue — and I agree it is — then we need to focus on reaching out to parents to engage them, educate them, and empower them. But don’t stop charters just because some parents are not as together as others.
  • Some people say that charters are taking money away from public schools. Not sure how you can make this argument since charters ARE public schools. They do shift money from one public school to another. But this would be the case with Innovative schools or any type of alternative school.
  • Success of course comes in the implementation and we need to have good policies and good oversight to make them successful.
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