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Why the League Opposes Charter Schools

Founded by activists who secured voting rights for women, the League of Women Voters has always worked to promote the values and processes of representative government. The League believes in an open governmental system that is representative, accountable and responsive – one that assures opportunities for citizen participation in government decision-making.

Because of these deeply held convictions, League of Women Voters of WA led the opposition of the two charter school initiatives and the referendum in 1996, 2000 and 2004 that were rejected by the voters. And we oppose HB 2428 and SB 6202 for the following reasons:

• Private boards selected by non-profit corporations rather than publicly elected by citizens will govern charter schools. Voters will lose their right to elect representatives to oversee the spending of their taxes.
• Charter schools will be exempt from state statutes and rules applicable to school districts and boards, creating a separate and unequal school system even though Article IX of the Washington state Constitution requires a general and uniform system of public schools. *
• HB 2428 and SB 6202 will create additional administrative functions and costs for the State Board of Education, the Superintendent of Public Instruction and School Districts at a time when further cuts are proposed for K-12, and the Supreme Court has ruled in McCleary v. State that Washington is failing to provide ample funding for education. *
• There are many successful innovative and alternative schools as part of the public school system in Washington state. Let’s encourage them and work toward full funding rather than be distracted by charter schools that the voters have already rejected three times.

Further points:

* The Washington Supreme Court has stated that a common school is open “to all
children . . . free, and subject to, and under the control of, the qualified voters of the
school district.” (School Dist. No. 20 v. Bryan, 51 Wash. 498)
* Education Week’s Quality Counts report gave Washington an F grade in education
spending and ranked the state 42nd in per-pupil spending and 44th in expenditures
as a percent of state taxable resources.

Catherine Ahl
Education Chair, LWVWA

3 thoughts on “Why the League Opposes Charter Schools

  1. Dear Catherine and members of the League of Women Voters of Kitsap County,

    Thank you SO much for this well-thought out message to the legislature.

    As an public education activist in Seattle, I have read this bill and I can see that you have as well. Your reasoning is sound.

    I will let you know, if you receive any pushback about your courageous stand, that the Legislature passed TWO innovation schools bills last session. As I wrote to the members who sponsored those bills, why not allow those laws to work?

    As well, the Supreme Court just said we don’t fully fund our existing schools. How is bringing new schools on-line going to help?

    Best wishes,
    Melissa Westbrook
    Seattle Schools Community Forum blog

  2. Under performing schools have gone on far too long in too many regions in our state without offering kids a choice to a education that will benefit them and our communities. Charter Schools are not for everyone , but they are one more choice for our kids to allow for the different learning styles they possess. Why limit choice based on fear and Union principles in regard to children? Especially when the SAME schools see students under achieve year after year.Literaly generation after generation . There are only 8 states that do not allow Charters , Washington is one of them. . The three largest minority organizations spoke out to pass Charter Schools , not only were they not listened to , the same schools are still underachieving in our state . Honoring Martin Luther King’s Dream of equality starts with public education , this has gone on way too long . The Parent Teachers Association has steped up to the plate and bucked the entrenched good old boys network and the Teacher’s Union in favor of Charters. The time to provide quality and equality education is now .

    Public charter schools are independent public schools granted more site-based authority. Usually, this frees them up to be more innovative. Charter schools operate from three basic principles:
     Choice: Parents choose the school their child attends; teachers and principals choose to work at that school.
     Flexibility: Charter schools can make timely decisions about developing curricula, structuring the school day and hiring teachers who meet the needs of their students.
     Accountability: The “charter” of the school functions similar to a contract, making the school accountable to parents, to their charter school authorizers, and to the state.

  3. I do not agree with the LWV position on this.

    Mostly in part because they appear to be operating on the premise that Charter Schools are being touted as either a full replacement to public schools or as the answer to fixing everything that is not working with the current status quo education system in this state.

    Choice is needed and competition is needed to improve any service. No one group should ever hold so much of a monopoly over a single system or single group of resources and that is exactly what we have with the public education status quo.

    Money/funding as the sole primary driver of the decision making over the diversity in services to a captive consumer base and as a dangled incentive towards overall education professional improvement has put the public education system in Washington State in position where it is manipulated and controlled for self-serving power protecting purposes by legislators, unions, administrators and school districts.

    Putting more money or full funding into this current system will not change the way in which it is managed and who is pulling the strings nor will it change the dispensing or implementation mechanisms that are currently controlling it.

    I compare it to individuals with self-destructive poor decision making practices who win the lottery. The self-destructive poor decision making practices still remain in place and are fully functional, they simply have more money to expedite their destruction on a grander scale. Fundamentally the same problems they had before are still there.

    Money should not be the only driver for improvement. Competition needs to be increased as well. Public Charter Schools will add substantive choice and competition to a monopoly system that is not working to serve and can simply not support the diverse needs and choice desires of the parents and children in Washington State.

    Colleen Smidt
    Key Activist
    League of Education Voters

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