Community Post | Why Initiative 1240 won’t work for Washington State: The abbreviated version

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The only part of a charter school that is a public school, according to this initiative, is the use of tax payer funds.

  • Initiative 1240 circumvents our State Constitution because it would set up an alternative state school system not under the supervision or oversight of the Superintendent of Public Instruction or the local school board.
  • The Washington State PTA voted not to support Initiative 1240 because the initiative did not meet the WSPTA’s “criteria for local oversight.”

  • According to the fiscal impact report of Initiative 1240, the projected implementation costs are estimated to be $3,090,700.

In addition to the $3M, “School districts that choose to become authorizers of charter schools will incur costs to solicit and review applications, contract with charter school boards, monitor and oversee their authorized charter schools, and annually report to the Board.”

When our schools desperately need funding, money should not be wasted on an experiment that has failed in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City to name a few examples

  • The next layer of bureaucracy would be the “Charter School Authorizers” who would be selected by the politically appointed State Board of Education. These “authorizers” would have a six year contract to review and approve applications made to create a charter school.

An authorizer may delegate their responsibilities to a third party, either an employee or a contractor. At that point, an authorizer could be a contractor who benefits from a particular charter franchise being approved. It also removes the process of authorizing charter schools one step further out of the public eye.

  • According to Initiative 1240, “any bargaining unit or units established by the charter school must be separate from other bargaining units in the school districts, educational service districts or institutions of higher education. Each charter school is a separate employer from the school district.”

Teachers and non-teaching staff in a charter school would have no protections that are granted to union employees in public schools in terms of healthcare, working hours, additional responsibilities, the length of the school day and pay. All of that would be at the discretion of the charter school board of directors,

  • In terms of protections granted to students and families in public schools, those protections would be lost. Parents or legal guardians and students would have no immediate legal recourse if they believed that their child had been wrongfully expelled or treated unfairly.

“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”.

  • Initiative 1240 states there should be no limit to class size or the number of students enrolled.

“An authorizer may not restrict the number of students a charter school may enroll.”

  • According to Initiative 1240, a charter school can buy property using taxpayer funds but there is no protection for tax payers if that charter school should close. The property would remain with the charter company or Education/Charter Management Organization EMO/CMO (the profit making arm of a charter school).

A charter school may “Enter into contracts with any school district, educational service district, or other public or private entity for the provision of real property, equipment, goods, supplies, and services, including educational instructional services and including for the management and operation of the charter school…” A charter school can “Rent, lease, purchase, or own real property.”

  • According to Initiative 1240,  charter schools would be able to run for five years before being reviewed and if the charter school has not met its promises, may only receive a slap on the wrist.

A charter contract may be renewed by the authorizer, at the request of the charter school, for successive five-year terms, although the authorizer may vary the term based on the performance, demonstrated capacities, and particular circumstances of a charter school and may grant renewal with specific conditions for necessary improvements to a charter school.

  • Another profit maker for the charter schools is the section regarding what the charter school receives from the state and how much they pay their staff.

Years of service in a charter school by certificated instructional staff shall be included in the years of service calculation for purposes of the statewide salary allocation schedule under RCW 28A.150.410. This section does not require a charter school to pay a particular salary to its staff while the staff is employed by the charter school.

Charter schools decide on their own pay scale for teachers and normally it’s lower than what a unionized teacher would make to keep the operating cost down for the charter school and yet, they want to receive from the state the amount of money that the state would normally pay to a union teacher.

Between being exempt from state statutes and regulations and with no public oversight, you have a private school using tax dollars and even turning a profit because the charter school is a “non-profit” and a non-profit organization does not pay taxes. The profit therefore goes into the salaries of the charter school CEO and the management company that would operate the school.

Sweet deal for the charter schools and management companies, not so good for the tax payer.

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16 thoughts on “Community Post | Why Initiative 1240 won’t work for Washington State: The abbreviated version

  1. Washington state already has public schools that are in effect “charters”. Not only are they successful, they are becoming world renowned, attracting students and parent from around the globe. Aviation High School is just one of these.

  2. My sons charter school ranks 3rd in the state. Parents who want the best for their children ACTIVELY seek out a school. Parents volunteer at the school everyday. BECAUSE it is a school by SUBSCRIPTION it has to be successful. If it were to fail to provide the education we, as parents, were looking for we would remove our children from them. What we need to do is flip how we view our public schools. The question to ask is why are the parents not seeking the public school and how to change that.

  3. “BECAUSE it is a school by SUBSCRIPTION it has to be successful.”

    That is patently false. Every single private and charter school is by choice and yet not every single one is successful. In fact, the largest, peer-reviewed study in the country says that 37% of charters do worse than public schools.

    Stories are not data.

  4. Aviation HS is NOT a charter school because charter schools are currently illegal in Washington State. It is a one of many great examples of how we can have innovation WITHOUT charter schools — which is where we should be focusing our attention rather than charters. I’m voting NO in I-1240.

  5. The other way to look at those numbers is that the vast majority (63%) of public charters either do as well or better than the traditional public schools. In my book, that seems pretty obvious–public charters are moving the ball forward.

    Based on your standard for deciding what we should and shouldn’t do in education, logically you’d need to shut down our current public schools simply because a nationwide study found that they do WORSE then charter schools 17% of the time and only do as well as charter schools LESS THAN HALF of the time.

    But it’s even worse than that because you’re misrepresenting the study in which those statistics were reported. Researchers who have studied charter schools will tell you it’s very clear that in states that have good quality authorizing and comprehensive charter schools like I-1240, public charter schools outperform traditional public schools. Research from Stanford, MIT, Harvard and others has repeatedly documented this.

    Certainly, we should encourage any innovation– in our traditional schools and by allowing public charter schools–that could create more opportunities for kids to stay in school and succeed, especially at-risk students who often have no options and aren’t being helped by the current crop of innovation schools.

    We should not narrow our students options for academic success. We should be voting Yes on 1240.

  6. Since we do not have charter schools in WA, what state are you referring to?
    Washington state has many successful alternative/creative approach schools and that is the direction we need to go with our funding…..NOT charter schools. Charter schools take limited public funding away from our public schools.

  7. bmyrick – the true peer-reviewed research is not kind to charters, and rightfully so. They are based in a neoliberal ideology, not research.
    The majority segregate by race and class
    Charters claim to cost less, but reality is they often end up spending more to achieve the same results as public schools – and this is just the public funds that can be accounted for. They often take in private funds too, but don’t report those. As for accountability – it’s not in 1240 – and most charters are less accountable than public schools. There are some Arizona charters who told the state gov where to stick it when they wanted a funding report.
    And just how much will it cost to pay the new Charter Oversight board that will have to be formed? And -gasp – isn’t that MORE government?

    You’d think since most charters don’t enroll many special ed kids – and especially not those with severe disabilities – their test scores might be better, right?
    They even suspend kids at higher rates and have suspiciously large attrition rates from grade to grade.
    Oh, but charter schools are innovative and parental choice will drive those innovations – right? Ha.

    Charter schools also frequently close down abruptly, leaving students, parents and teachers in a lurch.
    and some close down before they even open

    While there are some charters that are good, they are the exception rather than the rule. It’s an expensive “experiment”. Washington has innovative public schools that work – we should be looking at those to see what can be replicated elsewhere in the public system. Charters are a distraction from the real issues, and will drain money from the public school system despite the claims from the charter rah-rah people. I-1240 is a particularly bad piece of legislation that even some charter supporters recognize as being bad for the state.

    And just for fun: Build a charter, get a green card:

  8. What specific problem do you have with the unionized teachers in the State of WA? Do you have similar problems with other unionized public sector employees?

    Regardless, I-1240 provides little protections for taxpayers and communities of misuse of public funds. Additionally, the conversion charter provision is extremely troubling as it allows public resources to be taken by a small number of persons without review or notice to the affected community. Not only that but there is no provision to unconvert it back to a neighborhood school. I particularly take issue with a state entity telling our local school district what they have to do with our public buildings. Constitutional? I think not.

  9. I will definitely be voting yes! I am so glad that I had the opportunity to home school my daughter, with the guidance of certified teachers and all materials provided, through grades 6th to 8th.

    And then, for high school, she had only two teachers throughout her day, which allowed her teachers to know her strengths and weaknesses; she was not just a number on a seating chart. Parent-teacher conferences every 8 weeks were a huge help in keeping all of us aware of my daughter’s progresses and setting goals. School uniforms were great, too. High expectations and requirements during the school year, such as volunteerism and speeches, gave Shay an edge, taught her to reach higher, do better and broadened her views a bit. Where she had been falling through the cracks in a mainstream public high school, with teachers who had no idea who she even was, that charter school saved her.

    Those were both charter schools in California and were wonderful options that I’m so glad I had. What is fine for one student doesn’t always work for another. I think making these options available to parents and students would be a wonderful thing for them.

    I care much more about individual student needs than I do about mainstream public schools that are failing many students, not truly concerned about the individual students needs, but certainly glad to get the money for that student filling a seat, whether he/she actually learns anything or not.

  10. Of coarse the public school board doesn’t want to lose money for a faceless kid sitting at a desk. It’s all about the money, not about the student.

    My vote is due to my experience with charter schools. While Shay (my daughter) was growing up, I’ve dealt with two public schools and two charter schools. While the public schools both disappointed me, stumbling across the charter schools was like finding buried treasure. Teachers who knew my daughter and cared about her education.

    It seemed like, at the public schools, the teachers appeared tired and overworked. When Shay’s second grade teacher mentioned having her evaluated for ADHD, I was annoyed and found other methods that helped her concentrate. It bugged me that pills were the first suggestion, but it didn’t surprise me because that poor teacher had 20 other students to worry about.

    At the charter middle school, where I home schooled Shay, the teacher I worked with was always so energetic, enthusiastic and loved being there for the whole family and working with the parents. She always worked hard at finding what we needed or researching how we could go about getting what we needed.

    At the charter high school, one teacher told me that she loved being there because she only had two groups of students throughout the whole day and that gave her time to learn each students needs, strengths and weaknesses. She felt like she was actually making a difference with the students, instead of playing crowd control like she did when she taught at a mainstream public school.

    She taught three subjects, then Shay would go to one other teacher for her remaining subjects. The teacher said it was hard teaching more than one subject, but worth it having the same students for half a day. It also gave her some flexibility to how she taught.

    In my experience, the charter schools are much more geared towards the education of each student and their needs. After all, unlike mainstream public schools, they don’t get their money by having a student simply fill a seat. They have to prove their success. If they didn’t, parents would pull their kids out if the school, and there wouldn’t be a school to run. I think they are held to a higher standard and higher expectations than mainstream, and they meet those expectations exceptionally.

  11. The initial concept of public charter schools is a good one. We have to have competition in the public schools as students are tuning out, and not learning in assembly-line system. Look at how many can’t even spell after high school! More flexibility is needed in teaching methods. More hands-on teaching, and less tests. Make it more interesting for students so they’ll learn. But we need to change charters so that they aren’t managed by corporations, and allow unions to teach.
    And I don’t see how the money would be drained from the public schools. It’s only being redirected to the charters as the money is based on number of students. So the schools that they left wouldn’t need as much with fewer students- the ones that left for the charters. And you wouldn’t need more money for new charter school facilities if you used the same schools that are already there. Just have one shift for the traditional students, and another for the charter students.