This November, Washington voters will be asked yet again to approve the establishment of charter schools in our state. We should think long and hard before doing so. Charter schools are hardly a new idea. They've been around for more than 20 years, and they haven't transformed K-12 education yet. The main reason is that there is nothing magic about charters. What counts, as with all schools, is what goes on inside them. And there, the record is spotty. According to the most comprehensive assessment of charter school performance (the Stanford University CREDO study), less than 20 percent actually do better than a comparable traditional public school. And even if the success rate in Washington were to double that, it's still a crapshoot with public money and a diversion from what we should really be doing to improve public education.
For example, proponents say that one advantage of charters is that they would be freed from unnecessary government regulations. Well, why not free all schools from them? Another thing that should concern Washington voters is how these schools would be governed. The initiative establishes a new political agency, the Washington Charter School Commission (comprised of three members appointed by the governor, three by the president of the senate, and three by the speaker of the house), that would be charged with approving and overseeing the operation of charter schools, including the local tax dollars that would go to help support them. This seems to be part of a continuing trend to shift more and more control over the operation of our schools to Olympia.
So unless you like the idea of unelected officials in Olympia and the education reform theorists at the Gates Foundation deciding how to spend your local property tax dollars and what your local schools should look like, then vote no on Initiative 1240.
-- WILLIAM PENNELL, Pasco