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Published: Sunday, August 26, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Pro and Con: Charter schools

Vote Yes  (Jump to the Vote No argument)

Charter schools would give kids more options
By Mary Lou Evans
When it comes to educating our children, most Washington parents agree that more options are a good thing. That's why it's surprising that Washington is not already one of the 41 states that allows parents to choose whether our children can attend a public charter school. It's especially odd given the high premium our state puts on education and innovation.
Voting "yes" on I-1240 will finally allow Washington parents and students this option. Research has shown that in states with strong public charter school laws, like I-1240, charter schools have achieved outstanding results in helping students succeed, especially those who are at-risk or struggling in traditional school settings.
A "Yes" vote on I-1240 will allow up to 40 public charter schools to be authorized in Washington over the next five years. These schools will be subject to strict oversight and public accountability, overseen by a local school board or a newly created charter school commission. Public charter schools authorized under 1240 will be subject to annual performance reviews and an evaluation at the end of five years to determine whether additional public charter schools should be allowed. Charter schools are public schools, plain and simple. The key difference is that public charter schools are independently managed and operated by approved nonprofit organizations and are free from certain regulations so they have more flexibility in making decisions about curriculum, budgets, and the hiring and firing of teachers and staff. This flexibility is what allows these public schools to create the best learning environment to meet the needs of individual students.
Public charter schools are free and open to all students -- just like traditional public schools. They also receive funding based on student enrollment -- just like traditional public schools. Just like under current state law, the money follows the kids and stays within the public school system.
In addition, charter schools must meet the same academic standards as traditional public schools, and their teachers must meet the same certification requirements as teachers in other public schools.
I-1240 was written to include strict accountability standards and high performance requirements and is based on successes in other states with strong public charter school laws. Research from Stanford University and elsewhere shows that the states with the best laws are getting the best results. And 1240 brings the best of what has worked in other states to Washington.
I-1240 also has strong language regarding parent and local community involvement. Under I-1240, local school boards can choose to become charter school authorizers. And, I-1240 requires parent representation on the newly created state charter school commission – and requires that public charter schools demonstrate both community need as well as parent and community support before a charter school can be approved.
As a parent, I want more options and more opportunities for local parent involvement in my child's education, and I-1240 offers this.
Like other states, Washington has had difficulty in helping our struggling students succeed in school. While our traditional public schools work well for many students, there are still thousands of students in Washington who drop out of school every year. Still others who do graduate are not prepared enough to be successful in the workforce or in college.
A yes vote on 1240 will provide another option within our public schools to help more students succeed. As parents, that is something we can all agree is a good thing.
That's why a broad coalition of parents, teachers, educators, community leaders, businesses and organizations across Washington have joined together to urge a yes vote on 1240. Please look into the facts about public charter schools and Initiative 1240 by visiting www.YESon1240.com.
And, I hope you will join with me and other parents across our state in voting yes on 1240 this November.
Mary Lou Evans is a public school parent, past President of the Mill Creek Elementary PTA, and currently serves on the audit committee of both Jackson High School PTSA and Mill Creek Elementary PTA. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Silver Lake Soccer Club and lives in Mill Creek with her husband and three children.

Vote No

Charter schools would be a drain on funding
By Freedom Johnson
I've been a teacher in Washington public schools for the last 13 years. I'm also a proud member of the Washington State PTA and the Washington Education Association. My daughter is going to be a high school sophomore when school starts in September.
Speaking as a mom, a public school teacher and a Washington taxpayer, I ask you to join me in voting NO on Initiative 1240, the charter school initiative.
As a mom, I'm concerned that I-1240 will undermine the recent Supreme Court order to increase school funding so all students can succeed. The court case is called the McCleary decision. According to the state Constitution, amply funding basic K-12 education is the state's paramount duty.
As a teacher, I'm concerned that, after years of budget cuts, I-1240 will drain millions of dollars from existing classrooms. As a taxpayer, I'm concerned because I-1240 creates an expensive new system of privately operated – but publicly funded – charter schools in Washington.
Along with thousands of other teachers, classified school employees, community members and parents, I urge you to vote no on I-1240.
There are many good reasons to oppose the charter school initiative, I-1240:
•Charter schools will drain millions of dollars from existing public schools. At a time when school funding has already been cut dramatically, our children cannot afford this initiative.
Charter schools will make it harder to do what the state Supreme Court has ordered -- provide adequate funding for basic public education so all students have the chance to succeed.
Charter schools will serve only a tiny fraction of our student population. We need to make sure that all kids get a quality public education.
Charter schools are an unproven, risky gamble. Research conducted by Stanford University and others shows that, overall, charter schools do not perform better than public schools, and nearly 40 percent of them do worse.
Charter schools undermine local control. This initiative lets out-of-state charter school operators make the rules. That means less accountability to Washington taxpayers.
These are just a few of the reasons why dozens of groups oppose I-1240, including:
• The Washington State PTA
• The Washington Education Association
• The SEIU State Council
• The regional NAACP
• El Centro de la Raza
• The League of Women Voters
While the small group of wealthy people funding the I-1240 campaign has good intentions, there is no guarantee that kids who are struggling will have access to charter schools. Under this initiative, charter school enrollment will be determined by a lottery.
Instead of siphoning scarce school funding into new charter schools, we have an obligation to ensure ALL of our state's children have the opportunity to get a great public education. That means fully funding our existing schools. Instead, I-1240 diverts taxpayer money into unaccountable, unproven charter schools that would serve only some of our states' students.
Washington voters have already rejected charter schools three times. I-1240 is a discredited idea, and it's time to move on. Our state's children can't afford I-1240. Please join teachers, classified school employees, community members and parents: Vote no on I-1240.
To learn more about the problems with charter schools and I-1240, visit www.PeopleForOurPublicSchools.org.
Freedom Johnson is a Renton teacher and a member of the Washington Education Association, which represents teachers and education support professionals across the state.

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Herald Editorial Board

Peter Jackson, Opinion Editor: pjackson@heraldnet.com (@PeterJHerald)

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

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