It’s amazing how some of our legislators can get real creative with funding charter schools but not so much with public schools.
Ten Washington State Legislative Democrats voted to keep charter schools on life support by having these financial enterprises funded with state lottery money. (The state lottery was originally sold as a way to fund PUBLIC schools.) According to Bill 6194 charter schools, do NOT have to comply with district and state policies and law in any areas except that they are to be overseen by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. Instead charter schools are granted “flexibility” to “innovate.” Local school district boards will not have authority over charter schools. The system is rigged for charters and against local control.
For a related articles, see Emails reveal OSPI in contempt of Supreme Court ruling on charter schools in Washington State and California Board of Ed Tramples on Local Control, Pushes Charter School on Poor Community That Doesn’t Want It.
Part of the Washington State Democrat’s platform is the quote “We oppose charter schools”. This plank in the platform was hard fought throughout the state as one district after another passed resolutions clearly stating that charter schools are unconstitutional and undemocratic.
And yet, Frank Chopp allowed the faulty bill to make it to the floor for a vote where it narrowly passed, with the help of ten Democrats.
Those Democrats are:
Judy Clibborn-D, 41st-Mercer Island (where they will never see a charter school)-firstname.lastname@example.org
Christopher Hurst-D, 31st-Enumclaw- email@example.com
Ruth Kagi-D, 32nd-Seattle/Shoreline- firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristine Lytton-D, 40th-Anacortes- email@example.com
Jeff Morris-D, 40th-San Juan Islands- firstname.lastname@example.org
Eric Pettigrew-D, 37th-Seattle- email@example.com
David Sawyer-D, 29th-Lakewood- firstname.lastname@example.org
Tana Senn-D, 41st-Mercer Island- email@example.com
Larry Springer-D, 45th-Redmond- firstname.lastname@example.org
Pat Sullivan-D, 47th-Kent, Covington, Auburn- email@example.com
Now the bill is headed to Governor Inslee’s desk for signing.
There are four actions to take.
First, contact Governor Inslee and demand that he veto the bill.
His phone number is 360-902-4111 and you can send him an email message at fortress.wa.gov/es/governor.
To follow is a letter Seattle School Board Director Sue Peters wrote to Governor Inslee:
Dear Governor Inslee,
I urge you to veto ESSSB 6194 for the reasons I outlined below to our state legislators.
This is no way for our state legislators to govern.
It is a last-minute, non-transparent, recklessly unconstitutional attempt to manipulate funding to benefit a few students (less than 1,000) while ignoring their paramount duty to fully fund all 1 million of our state’s K-12 public students.
These legislators are not only in contempt of the Supreme Court, they are violating the Constitution in terms of both McCleary and charter schools.
You should not be a party to such irresponsible and political maneuvers, and instead demand that our legislators act responsibly and deliver a budget that includes good faith efforts to fulfill the mandates of McCleary and our state Constitution.
Thank you for your consideration and service.
Seattle Public Schools parent
Public education advocate
Founding Member of Parents Across America
Vice President, Seattle School Board
And the letter to the State Legislators from School Board Director Sue Peters:
Subject: VOTE NO on 6194 and other charter “fixes” — Support our 1 million students and the Constitution
I ask that you not approve the last-minute version of bill 6194 (or any of the other charter school “fixes” that have been introduced this session such as SB 6163, HB 2347) for the following reasons:
- All of the charter-focused bills put forth in the current session remain unconstitutional and represent an effort to focus on a few (less than 1000 students) rather than the needs of the many (1 million public education students statewide). I ask that you remain focused on all of our students and fund all of our schools.
- These bills would amount to a further violation of the state constitution from a state governing body that is already in contempt of court, and would incite a further legal challenge.
- None of these bills or variations thereof provide for actual and constitutionally required local, elected oversight of charter schools.
- Instead, by stipulating that charter schools are “governed by a charter school board,”these bills interpose a governing body that is not accountable to voters and families.
- Even if school district boards become charter school authorizers, they inherit all the administrative responsibilities associated with charter schools, but little to no governing authority in terms of implementing policy, curriculum, operations, etc.
- Instead, these bills primarily mandate extra bureaucracy for already overextended school districts.
- Furthermore, by granting charter schools the privileged and unique right to be exempt from district and state policy and law, these bills effectively negate the oversight of the local district school board: “charter schools are not subject to and are exempt from, all other state statutes and rules applicable to school districts and school district boards of directors”
- These bills also maintain an added layer of bureaucracy in the form of a charter school board (“the charter school board maintains oversight authority over the charter school.”)
- These bills also establish special treatment for charter schools, setting the stage for two castes of schools – charter schools with “flexibility,” and all other schools. “For the purpose of allowing flexibility to innovate in areas such as scheduling, personnel, funding, and educational programs to improve student outcomes and academic achievement, charter schools are not subject to, and are exempt from, all other state statutes and rules applicable to school districts and school district boards of directors…”
Please also note, there is no evidence that charter schools in Washington are faring better than existing public schools. All “data” that has been produced so far is self-reported, unverified, and premature (many have only been open for a few months, and the very first one, First Place, was mired in financial and management problems and closed as a charter).
Specifically, a recent press release from the Washington Charter Commission that claimed “Washington’s Public Charter Schools on Path to Successful First Year Despite Threat of Closure Following State Supreme Court Ruling” contains “data” that the Charter Commission admits is unverified, therefore it should be treated with the attendant skepticism. These claims are self-reported by the schools, with no evidence provided. This lack of transparency or public accountability only underscores the problematic nature of charter schools and the critical need for true public oversight of all schools that receive public funding. (http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=36a2a1b17ba3ff174c005c978&id=d43a512a30)
In contrast, there is evidence that charter schools negatively impacted existing public schools by drawing away students and funds from existing schools. At least 60 students left Seattle Public Schools for charters this past fall, which contributed to an enrollment deficit that resulted in detrimental cutbacks to schools after the year had begun. As a result, classes lost teachers, children were negatively impacted.
Above all, if you support “flexibility” for “innovation” that is touted by charter school proponents and afforded to charter schools by bills such as these, I ask that you permit such flexibility for all of our students in all of our schools. Many of the mandates that shackle our school districts come from you, the state legislature: Excessive and experimental assessments and standardization, like the Common Core State Standards and the time-consuming, unproven and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessments, unfunded but costly mandates like onerous graduation requirements, even the 24 credit and 1080 hour mandates from the state will be burdens that our state’s underfunded school districts will be challenged to meet. The state law underpays school board directors (who have earned the same $50 per diem since 1987), and burdens school districts further by failing to fully fund our schools, therefore causing difficult choices to be made.
Approval of these bills would be reckless and would incite further legal challenges – at a time when the state legislature is already in contempt of court. It would be grossly irresponsible to engage in further invalid actions.
I urge you to vote No on these bills.
Parent, public education advocate, Founding Member of Parents Across America, Vice President, Seattle School Board
p.s. Please note the charter school resolution passed by the Seattle School Board last week: https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/15-16agendas/03022016agenda/20160302_Action_Report_Resolution201516-13_Charter_PACKET.pdf
Two, start a recall petition for the Democrats who voted for the charter school bill.
With that charter school vote, our elected representatives defied their constituents and the Party Platform.
Three, contact WEA, LWV and others about taking this bill, if it becomes law, back to the courts.
It’s time for our legislators to know we are serious about adequately funding PUBLIC education, not private and/or corporate owned charter schools.
Four, find good candidates to run against those who are now in office and voted for this bill.