-- KIRK WILLIAMSON, Kennewick
We're still trying to educate 21st-century kids using a 19th-century model which ignores nearly everything we've learned about brain science in the past 100 years. If charter schools will help break that model and create momentum to build a better, more flexible, education system, I'm all for it.
Still have questions
I agree with Initiative 1240 (particularly in regards that the teachers are not required to be members of the Washington Education Association) but I would like much more information regarding costs. Would the schools be new buildings and locations? What are some of the other 41 states experiencing in regards to start-up costs, teachers salaries, transportation costs, etc.?
Our current schools are continually asking for more money that reflects higher property taxes every year. What would charter schools do to the local budget and taxation in the counties where the school would be located?
-- JACK BARKER, Pasco
I don't see the need for charter schools. It looks like a duplication of services to me. I just read the whole law. Nowhere did I see anything that suggested teachers would have any more flexibility in the classroom. There is nothing specific in the law as written. It looks like they want to segregate kids with developmental disabilities from the 'mainstream;' I think we would be in violation of the Disabilities Act if we tried that. The law also includes the 'highly capable.' We have already started a STEM school out here as part of the current school districts (Richland, Pasco, Kennewick). If we wanted another specialized school, we could create one. We have a school district (Pasco) with a huge percentage of ESL and school lunch eligible kids. They already have programs in place for these kids, too. However, the residents there have not passed levies to build new schools (except the new high school). The law does talk about using our same levy monies to support charter schools, too. Those residents may never approve a levy with charter schools included.
We already have alternative high schools in the area for kids who are at risk of dropping out. I see no additional benefits of charter schools. Maybe the reason we don't have them in Washington is because our school systems are really good. I think this law is a duplication of services and a waste of taxpayer money.
-- INGE SAENZ, West Richland
Drain on resources
I believe that research has shown that charter schools do not increase student achievement. The most extensive study done so far, conducted by Stanford University, shows that only 17 percent of charters perform better than traditional public schools, while twice that many perform at a lower level. Many charter schools in Chicago are either demonstrating lower state test scores or have proven to achieve the same.
Charter schools are promoted by the private sector with leaders who are not educators (Bill Gates) and who do not know or understand our diverse population of students in Southeast Washington. In addition, charter schools are unaccountable to local voters. They are costly. Charter schools drain $100 million from existing public schools. We would spend millions on charter schools for a tiny fraction of students would gain access to these schools.
Public schools have been inadequately funded at the expense of our children. We need appropriate funding.
Furthermore, schools should be held accountable for student achievement but lawmakers should not ignore proven educational research to evaluate school performance, especially in schools with diverse populations. We need proven solutions to real problems -- so all our children can succeed and not an expensive Band-Aid promoted by a large corporation.
-- JENNIFER GILLIAM, Pasco
I was saddened to read the Tri-City Herald recommendation for charter schools! Public schools already operate on a tight budget, now you want to divide the pie of money into more slices! You can't improve public school by building new schools and changing the rules for them!
Charters are supposed to take everyone -- but lack of special education programs will keep out special education students. Lack of busing will keep out poor kids and high academic standards will keep out kids who struggle with school. Contrary to what the Herald said charters would be getting just the cream-of-the-crop students.
Furthermore, you wrote some school boards might like the chance to run a charter, when in fact the Pasco School Board published a letter on the PSD website last spring, chastising Sen.r Mike Hewitt who represents the district, for sponsoring the bill without even asking anyone on the board -- people who know about schools -- about it!
Also, you stated teachers in charter schools don't have to join the union. Teachers in the public schools don't have to join the union either!
Charter schools are an experiment which Washington can't afford. They are a bad idea, a very bad idea!
-- DEANNA WHITESIDE, Kennewick
Lack of oversight
I do not support charter schools, for a variety of reasons. Most important, the charter-school concept siphons my tax dollars away from the public schools where I live (Kennewick), and takes away my democratic right to have input into the process whereby those tax dollars are spent. In Washington state, we have a long tradition of local control of our schools. That's why we have a somewhat inefficient patchwork of 289 (plus or minus a few) school districts in the state. I don't want to give that up. If I don't like the way that my local school board is running our schools, I can vote for someone else at the next election. That won't happen with charter schools, as they are proposed now. The governing authority of those schools will be appointed by politicians on a statewide basis, and I seriously doubt that any of my representatives from the 8th District will even have a say in those appointments.
I have taken the time to read the charter schools initiative. It's 40 pages long, by the way, and contains a lot of stuff that isn't reflected in the few paragraphs of the ballot description. I'm retired, and a good 50 percent of all the property taxes that I pay go to support the Kennewick School District. I am pleased to pay those taxes, because I have a firm belief in quality public education. It's an earmark of a civilized society. I worked in education most of my career, and I am a certified teacher as well. In general, our public schools do a pretty good job, despite the bad press they constantly receive. Yes, there is a little too much bureaucracy at the top end, and the regulatory scheme can be over-complicated. However, are we going to fix those relatively minor issues with a new 40-page law?
The whole proposal reminds me of our recent liquor-privatization debacle. I'm voting NO on 1240.
-- ERIC NORDLOF, Kennewick
A couple of misunderstandings
I spoke with a couple of retired teachers about Initiative 1240, the charter school initiative. Two primary complaints/observations were made by these former teachers. First, charter schools did not have to use certified teachers, and, second, charter schools could "cherry pick" the better students and expel under-performing students. I listened attentively, not knowing the answer to these two points. So I came home and did a little research (I looked up the text of the initiative). The initiative in Section n(ii) says:
"Require that teachers in public charter schools be held to the same certification requirements as teachers in other public schools;"
Section n(iv) reads:
"Require that public charter schools be free and open to all students just like traditional public schools are."
Clearly, the teachers are wrong on these two key points, at least in that it relates to the initiative. Also, charter schools will be held to the same standards as public schools. Personally, I am in favor of competition over monopolies. Competition tends to bring out the best ideas, while monopolies tend to protect self interests. This is not to say that public schools have done a bad job; all of my kids went through public schools, unlike many of our politicians' children, including President Obama. Oh, by the way, they all turned out to be fine citizens.
-- TOM SEIM, Richland
Most other states already have public charter schools, and all across the country, they are helping thousands of students, every day, to succeed in school and graduate prepared for college and a career. It's time Washington students are allowed the same public school options for success that are already available for students in 41 other states. That's why I'm urging my friends and fellow parents to support Initiative 1240 this November.
A yes vote on I-1240 will allow the creation of up to 40 public charter schools in Washington over the next five years. Charter schools are public schools that are independently managed by approved nonprofits, and overseen by a local school board or state commission, subject to strict accountability and performance requirements.
I-1240 brings the best of what works in other states to Washington. The rigorous authorization process required by I-1240 will ensure the best quality public charter schools for our state, with strict accountability and oversight.
Every state surrounding Washington has public charter schools. It's time for Washington to catch up and give parents another option when it comes to their child's education.
I urge you to learn more about public charter schools and I-1240 by visiting www.YESon1240.com.
-- SERGIO JARA ARROYOS, Pasco
Charters not the solution
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 than20 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