On January 20th, a bill (HB 2428) to establish Charter Schools was heard in the Washington State House Education Committee. While waiting for the ice and snow to melt, I decided to watch the hearing on HB 2428 introduced by Representatives Eric Pettigrew (D-37th) and Glenn Anderson (R-5th).
Each time charter schools become an issue, I check my internal barometer to see how I feel about the issue. My children have graduated from Seattle Public Schools and have gone on to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees. I have pretty much pulled away from public life since my last child left for college and the school board I helped elect was ousted by powerful private interests.
The 20 years I spent organizing with and advocating for disadvantaged parents in Seattle’s schools seemed like it yielded very few results. Even my volunteerism in the highly impacted schools my children attended had marginal but unsustainable results.
In the Rainier Beach neighborhood where I have lived in for 22 years, I see the results of our schools’ failure almost daily.
One would think after dealing with such an intractable bureaucracy I would be at the front of the parade banging the drums for charter schools.
However, I can’t.
I can’t support a system that siphons resources from our terribly underfunded public schools to benefit a select few. The 295 school districts in our state serve a little more than 1 million students. After 5 years of charter school implementation, the proposed legislation would only serve approximately 100,000 students.
I can’t support the efforts of our legislators who are willing to challenge the powerful “special interests” like unions and the majority of voters to create charter schools, but lack the political will to raise the revenue from corporations to fully fund ALL of our public schools.
I can’t support legislation that allow for-profit organizations called “learning management organizations” to use public resources to run private schools.
I can’t support using disadvantaged and children of color as the reasons for creating charter schools when, in truth, top performing charter schools only serve 38% of the high needs population.
Finally, I can’t support legislation that is drafted by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) — the right wing organization founded by the Koch brothers. HB 2428 is almost, verbatim, ALEC’s education policy.
Charter schools have a 20 year track record. Some charters outperform public schools but most don’t. If charter schools are Superman, then Superman has left the building leaving MOST of the children who need to be saved behind — taking more of their resources with him.
Our legislators know what works — the best practices for quality education have been well documented. If the sponsors of HB 2428 were serious about improving education for disadvantaged children they would invest in what works for all of our schools.
To repeat what Rep. Pettigrew said at the hearing “our children can’t wait.” We need fully funded public schools that serve ALL of our children – not the “flavor of the month” that only serves a few.
HB 2428 Bill Summary
Going Exponential: Growing the Charter Schools Sectors Best
ALEC Education Policy
More About ALEC