This is in response to The News Tribune’s editorial board convened to address Initiative 1240, the charter school initiative.
During the debate, several references were made to school dropout rates and public school failure. A recent study done in Tacoma by the University of Washington found that “economic marginality, distressed families, and human and social capital deficits are strongly associated with poor school performance.”
The study did not find that public schools are failing, but rather that poverty has a profound effect on the ability and performance of many of our students.
It is a sad misunderstanding to suggest that public schools are the fundamental cause of dropout and attrition. If our leaders cannot see this, we are bound to continue the cycle of poverty and academic underachievement. Even the pro-side in the debate admitted that charter schools are not the answer.
Early childhood education, on the other hand, is broadly recognized to improve cognitive development, and decreases both retention and dropout in at-risk children.
This fall, Tacoma will open five free half-day preschools for kids living in poverty. This is the kind of intervention that will ensure access to educational opportunities and improve achievement for all students. Washington will launch more Early Learner programs with Race to the Top funding.
We need to support these efforts along with adequate funding for public schools rather than add another layer of expense and bureaucracy that will come with charter schools.