I-729: Charter plan makes the grade this time around

Four years ago we encouraged voters to strike down two initiatives we thought would undermine public education — vouchers and charter schools.

The charter school initiative was inaccurately defined, we argued, and didn’t provide enough accountability. There are ways to make charter schools work, we said. Try again, we told supporters.

They did. And now we’re more than comfortable encouraging people to vote yes on Initiative 729.

Initiative 729 does two major things: It gives parents more choices for their children within the public school system and it serves as the shot of competition the public school system needs to raise and maintain standards of excellence.

Granted, it’s a nerve-wracking initiative for the public school system because it would rearrange the budget. If a student leaves a traditional public school for a charter school, the allotted money for that child goes with. But that money belongs to the taxpayers and they should be the ones to decide what’s best for their children within certain guidelines and state standards. Besides, charter schools stand to attract home-schoolers and private school students whose dissatisfied parents withdrew them from public school.

Initiative 729 has a built-in accountability system. The schools must meet the criteria established by the parents and other founders. And students are still required to meet state standards. The schools must answer to their non-profit schools boards and public school or university sponsors. Above all, they must answer to taxpaying parents and the public that voted in favor of initiatives such as 601 and 695.

Charter schools are a hot topic because so many parents aren’t totally satisfied with our state’s education system today. They’ve already tried to work within the current structure. It’s not too much to ask for something new and reasonable that already exists in 37 other states.

There’s a difference between renovating our education system and undermining it. Initiative 729 gives us the chance to explore new and better ways to educate children. We can’t keep telling parents no.

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