Four years ago, Washington voters approved, albeit narrowly, an initiative aimed at allowing a small number of charter schools as part of an experiment to see if the concept would work here.
Given that charter schools are active in 80 percent of the nation, it seemed a prudent course. After all, charter schools — publicly funded, privately run — offer alternative approaches to education for those who don’t thrive in traditional public schools.
But the state’s public education establishment has been trying to undercut the experiment since it launched.
Last week, the state’s teachers union and other groups made yet another effort to put a kink in the hose — metaphorically speaking.
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A lawsuit was filed challenging the new charter school law approved by the Legislature this year to fix flaws in the original voter-approved law that was struck down by the state Supreme Court.
The lawsuit contends the Legislature did not fix the problems. Why? Because the opponents of charter schools believe any penny not spent on basic K-12 public education is somehow undercutting the effort to force the state to fully fund basic education.
The state has many responsibilities beyond K-12 public education. And while we concur the Legislature has done a lousy job of meeting its court-ordered responsibility to fully fund basic education, spending state money on charter schools is not a “shell game” as the lawsuit contends.
The teachers’ union, et al. is doing a disservice to the public. Charter schools should be given a chance.
Currently, eight schools are open and three more are opening soon, including the Willow School in Walla Walla. Willow, which is set to open in 2017, will serve middle school students with a project-based approach.
Washington and its education establishment need to get with the times. Rather than wasting effort and money fighting against charter schools, the teachers union could more proactively involve itself improving education efforts — including charter schools.
Forty-one other states have figured out how to make charter schools work to the benefit of students. Washington state can — and should — also be able to do it.