Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: charter schools

Nov.
7th

State voters were generous – if there wasn’t a price

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Tuesday’s election returns suggest that Washington is becoming a libertarian paradise – a place where gays can marry, marijuana is legal and parents might even be given the choice of independent schools for their children.

But oh, by the way – not a penny more for public education or other state programs.

A telltale piece of evidence lies deep in the down-ballot election returns, in the tally on two advisory votes that have no legal effect whatsoever.

The 2012 Legislature voted to end a tax break for big banks and maintain a soon-to-expire tax on petroleum inventories.

Both moves got broad bipartisan support in the Legislature. When candidates talk about “loopholes,” they’re talking about items like the banks’ deduction for home-loan interest and tax breaks for the petroleum industry.

What did the voters think? Apparently, if it can be construed as a tax increase – even for a coddled industry – they don’t like it. On election day, the big banks got a 58 percent thumbs-up from the electorate.

Meanwhile, voters overwhelmingly enacted Initiative 1185, which reaffirmed the existing requirement that new taxes need a two-thirds majority in the Legislature. Even with two-thirds, the lawmakers in that supermajority must be publicly shamed through the advisory vote process, which involves publishing their names in the voters’ pamphlet.

Referendum 74’s narrow victory was a breakthrough for marriage equality. But it was no money out of pocket for Washingtonians. One wonders how it might have fared had it actually required some minimal financial sacrifice to enact it. It’s a fortunate thing that civil rights don’t come with a price tag attached.
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Sep.
11th

I-1240: An essential escape route from failing schools

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

We’ll let Initiative 1240 speak for itself.

The measure would authorize the creation of up to 40 charter schools, public schools freed from many bureaucratic regulations. They are commonly launched and governed by teachers and parents who believe their local schools are failing their students.

If enacted in November, the initiative would:

•  Give priority to charter organizers who want to serve disadvantaged children and students trapped in poorly performing traditional schools.

•  Require that charter schools comply with all state and federal nondiscrimination laws.

•  Allow them to specialize in teaching students at risk of academic failure, including children with disabilities or severe behavioral problems.

• Forbid any religious influence in admissions, hiring or instruction.

• Forbid them from charging tuition.

• Require that they be open to all students, with seats filled by lottery if demand exceeds capacity.

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July
28th

Charter schools: Not a cure-all, but a sign of health

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Other education reforms are more urgent than charter schools. Washington could have a fantastic public school system without them.

But we don’t have a fantastic system, and one of the reasons is a reactionary K-12 establishment that can be counted on to resist efforts to bring rigorous standards and greater accountability to public education.

Charter schools aren’t a magic cure for all that ails the schools, but the fact that they are prohibited here –­ while allowed in the vast majority of other states – is another symptom of the backwardness of “progressive” Washington.

Initiative 1240, which would legalize charters in Washington for the first time, has just officially qualified for the ballot. The usual suspects are lining up against it, notably the Washington Education Association – which tore into the measure like a pit bull the moment it got traction.

The WEA’s mother organization, the National Education Association, takes a more nuanced position on charter schools. Here’s a line from its position paper:

“NEA believes that charter schools and other nontraditional public school options have the potential to facilitate education reforms and develop new and creative teaching methods that can be replicated in traditional public schools for the benefit of all children.”
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Feb.
8th

A public school accountability bill? Still a chance

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Education reform – serious education reform – remains alive in the Legislature. No thanks to the Legislature’s education chairwomen.

State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, and Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, have used their peremptory power to squish two measures that would have nudged Washington toward the national mainstream.

One bill would hold educators genuinely accountable for student performance; the other (now dead) would have authorized a limited number of charter public schools.
Both strategies are strongly encouraged by the Obama administration and have been embraced by states trying to shake public schools out of mediocrity. Both are opposed in this state by teacher unions and other stalwarts of the status quo.

As usual, the Legislature’s powers-that-be crouch like defensive NFL linemen, ready to tackle anything that might challenge the failing trade-union model of public education.

This year, though, McAuliffe had to deal with a bipartisan rebellion that effectively shut down her committee last week. A majority of the Senate Education Committee wanted to at least hold a vote on the charter school bill; when she refused, they refused to act on any other education legislation.

Credit is due the Republicans and Democrats who forced this crisis. And some credit is due the Senate leaders who revived the accountability bill – though not the charter bill – by shifting it to the Ways and Means Committee.
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Jan.
13th

School reform can’t wait for a booming economy

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The middle of an economic crisis is not the time to stop fixing public education. On the contrary.

A legislative push for new school reforms – including charter schools and greater teacher accountability – met with instant resistance this week from the usual suspects.

Singling out the bill to authorize a handful of charters – which are oddly easy to demonize in this state – the Washington Education Association issued a statement describing the measure as a “distraction from the real debate.” The real debate, naturally, is about pumping billions of dollars the state doesn’t have into a K-12 system that doesn’t work well enough.

Charter public schools are hardly the most important reform out there, but they do serve as a barometer of a state’s willingness to give every possible option to parents and children.
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Oct.
25th

Public charter schools should be an option in Washington, too

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The state PTA has gotten tired of waiting for Superman.

Last week, it mounted a new and welcome push to persuade the state to reconsider public charter schools, an educational option common in most other states but forbidden – stupidly forbidden – in Washington.

The history is not promising. Washingtonians have twice defeated proposals for public charter schools at the polls, and the Legislature has repeatedly refused to allow them.

As the PTA recognizes, this makes no sense whatsoever. Virtually all serious education reform movements in this country advocate charter schools as

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