Letters to the Editor

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EDUCATION: I-1240 doesn’t fix public schools

Letter by Kathy A. Orlando, Tacoma on Aug. 2, 2012 at 2:02 pm with 15 Comments »
August 2, 2012 3:19 pm

Our family has lived in the same home for 25 years. With our four children we have experienced three elementary schools, two middle schools and three high schools, plus Running Start through Tacoma Community College.

Each school was chosen carefully based on the needs of each child, and we were fortunate. From experience we know that innovative schools and programs have been present in the Tacoma School District for decades.

Transportation was not an issue, so we could choose outside of our neighborhood. Charter schools provided by Initiative 1240 will attract the fortunate: the families who have flexible schedules and can afford the time and resources to transport their students.

I-1240 states that public charter schools free teachers and principals from burdensome regulations that limit other public schools, giving them the flexibility to innovate and make decisions about staffing, curriculum, and learning opportunities to improve student achievement and outcomes

With that in mind, how about a revision to Section 101, n (VIII): Allow public schools to be free from many regulations so that they have more flexibility to set curriculum and budgets, hire and fire teachers and staff, and offer more customized learning experiences for students.

Millions of dollars are being poured into I-1240’s campaign for 40 schools over a five-year period. Where’s the innovative legislation to support change in the other 2,350 schools in the state of Washington?

(Orlando is a former Tacoma School Board member.)

Leave a comment Comments → 15
  1. Good letter, don’t agree with all of it, but it does give one pause for thought.

  2. teehud68 says:

    Kathy, your points are well-taken, but as a former school board member you have to know that what you’re saying about I-1240 isn’t fully correct.

    The section you quote from about letting public charter schools have more flexibility in scheduling, curriculum, staffing, etc. is accurate, but you omitted the fact that I-1240 also requires public charters to meet the same academic standards as traditional public schools do and the teacher certification requirements are also the same.

    What a “yes” vote on I-1240 will do would be to give parents of struggling students options, options they do not currently have in the state of Washington.

    I also heard one of my education friends admit to me that the reason for initially allowing 40 charter schools was that the research has shown states that limit the initial number of charters have high success rates and go on to generate high academic performance among charter school students.

  3. Didn’t the Tacoma teacher go on an illegal strike to prevent flexibility in firing and transferring teachers?

  4. mahinaokeiki says:

    Sadly, the initiative does the opposite. It does not give all parents of all struggling students new options.

    It creates options. So yes, there’s an illusion of providing parents of struggling students with options. However, there is no transportation provided. Only parents with the ability and time to transport their students to and from a charter school will be able to take advantage of a new charter school. In Tacoma, we have a LARGE percentage of students who receive free and reduced lunch, placing them in a category of living at or near poverty. Parents who have one car and may have to work 2 jobs are not going to be taking their kids to and from any school. Parents who have NO car are not going to be providing transportation to and from a charter school. And you assume that a student has won the lottery to get admitted to the charter school. Few parents of struggling students will gain new options because this initiative was created by people who want to move their children away from the needy, hard to teach, struggling, and disabled students.

    It creates options for the haves and can haves, and leaves behind the have nots and the you-are-a-distraction kids. This initiative hurts our schools and our most at risk and neediest struggling students.

  5. baseballmom says:

    god, get over it already, pawl-that strike talk is OLD. and charter schools are famous for excluding special ed kids and pretty much getting rid of behavior issues by kicking students out instead of working with them to solve the problem. as one who works with special ed and behavior kids-i hate to see bias like this be allowed to further narrow their options.

  6. korlando says:

    mahinaokeiki – Exactly right.
    teehud68 – True, the initiative calls for public charters to meet the same academic standards as traditional public schools do and the teacher certification requirements are also the same.
    A question to ask is, why let 8 schools a year (40 in 5 years) have more flexibily in scheduling, curriculum, staffing, etc.? If charter schools are the answer because they free teachers and principals from burdensome regulations that limit other public schools why do those same burdensome regulations still exist for 2350 schools in Washington state?

  7. Charter schools are failing nationwide. Why would I want to choose a system like that? How is that even a choice?

  8. Instead of actually looking at what we need to improve education, politicians have successfully changed the subject. Charter schools have not been shown to be effective and this is after they have been around for over twenty years.

    On a side note, please name something that is done in a charter school that is not already implemented in our public schools. They keep bringing up all of these “innovative methods,” but they never give any specifics to what these methods are. Keep in mind it needs to be replicable. The Seed Project in Washington DC basically borders their students Monday through Friday. The school takes on the role of parent during the week at a cost of $36k per student per year. Washington spend only 10K per student per year.

  9. I-1240 is a fraud. It is just another layer of bureaucracy with all the same regulations, plus a few new ones thrown in for good measure.

    You want reform? It’s simple. Shut down the government-run system and replace it with a check per student that is used to pay tuition wherever. The Washington state constitution requires nothing more.

    Then rate (and enforce) the schools for achievement levels which is how to comport with the Supreme Court decision.

    The state is incompetent to run a school system, among other things it can’t do.

  10. Here’s an idea, instead of having 40 experimental charter schools, let’s designate 40 public schools to be Innovative schools and let them “free teachers and principals from burdensome regulations that limit other public schools, giving them the flexibility to innovate and make decisions about staffing, curriculum, and learning opportunities to improve student achievement and outcomes.” and let’s see what happens! Because if charter schools are allowed to do that so they can succeed, then shouldn’t public schools?

  11. commoncents says:

    Our courts have ruled that transportation is part of basic education. The charter initiative specifically addresses a transportation plan. The costs to transport students are part of the total allocation so transportation needs to be provided. I would fight any charter school request that doesn’t provide full transportation services within the districts boundaries.

  12. SEC 213 does state “(y) Plans for providing transportation, food service, and all
    other significant operational or ancillary services;” however, most charter schools do not provide transportation. In Tacoma, the district does not provide transportation for kids who choose to go to a school that is not their neighborhood school.

  13. Here is the deal with transportation: Charters won’t have any funding for additional transportation beyond that which the surrounding district gets. Usually this means student within a certain boundary can be transported if they reside more than a mile away as the crow flies. (The same as neighborhood schools) It *does not* mean that kids will be bused there from outside of the neighborhood, unless additional funding is provided for it.

    Here is the language:

    “Allocations for pupil transportation must be calculated on a
    per student basis based on the allocation for the previous school year
    to the school district in which the charter school is located.”

    Actually, that reduces the total “pie” of transportation money for the surrounding district.

  14. bobcat1a says:

    If charter schools are the solution to poor public schools, let’s find out. Pick out the 10 worst schools in Washington and make them charters. If the students suddenly start performing significantly better or if they don’t, we have our answer.

  15. BigSwingingRichard says:

    Bobcat1a:

    Offer all quality teachers the ability to do the job for the same pay and without the requirement to pay union dues and you might have a long list of applicants. The greatest fear for the union is that a non-uionized school might perform better.

    This would clearly benefit kids, but kids are too often an afterthought in public education and they are usually second to the interests of the adults who run the unions.

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