Washington’s state school boards association has joined the state PTA in opposing the charter school measure, Initiative 1240, that will come before voters in November.
The Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA) board listed among its criticisms of I-1240:
• Lack of oversight by locally-elected officials.
• A state commission that could authorize charters would not be chosen by voters, but by the governor, lieutenant governor and the speaker of the state House of Representatives.
• It’s unclear how often the unelected boards of individual charter schools would meet and how they would accept public comment.
• Washington already offers alternative schools and innovation, so charters aren’t needed.
“Under this initiative, public education dollars would be placed under private management, without the public accountability that our communities and taxpayers expect and deserve,” WSSDA board president Mary Fertakis said in a news release.
Shannon Campion, director of Washington Stand for Children, one of the groups behind the charter school initiative, said opponents are misinterpreting the initiative.
“There’s a lot of local oversight written in at many levels,” she said. She said that in addition to the state commission, locally elected school boards are also empowered to create charter schools under the initiative. She said charter schools would have to demonstrate both community need and support before they could open.
“If a local board authorizes, they are the oversight,” she said. She added that a charter school can have its charter revoked and be forced to close for performance reasons.
“You show me an example where that happens in traditional public schools today,” she said.
More than 40 states already have charter school laws. Charters are publicly funded schools that allow significant decisions to be made at a school level, rather than by a school district or state officials. Three times in the past 16 years, Washington voters have turned down charter proposals.
Campion noted that most individual public schools don’t currently have a school-level governing board. Parents with issues address them with their teachers or principals. If they don’t feel satisfied, they can go to the school board.
Under the initiative, that same option would exist for charters authorized by local school boards, Campion said. For schools authorized by the state charter commission, parents would be able to address complaints to the commission, she said.