But there's a couple of interesting turns here. One is that LEV's position is not that charters are great and work well across the board. It's that for a certain group of children, they do seem to work. This would be for ELL and poor students. (I'd have to look into this assertion myself but I'll take it at face value.)
So would it be worth it to bring in another layer of bureaucracy to public education in Washington state just for a small subset of students? Do we really believe that only charters that serve those groups would pop up? Is it worth it to have better schools for those children (even if it means weakening the districts the charters would be in by lessening their resources)?
Is it the greater good theory?
I'm not buying it.
The other turn is that as you'll see in my next e-mail batch from SPS and TFA that the Gates Foundation wants to see "innovation." They consider charters innovative (even though there are plenty of regular public schools that could be called innovative).
So basically, the argument is that the powers that be in this state - some wealthy people - want charters. They want to have all the other reform toys that the other states do.
The argument from that is, well, it's coming so we should be the ones to shape the law.
Now where have I heard that argument before? Oh yeah, from Dean Stritikus who told the COE that well, TFA is coming and we should be the ones educating them (while they are educating SPS students).
Oh, so it's inevitable that we will get charter schools in Washington state and so let's try to have good charter law.
On the one hand, we will have decades of other states' experience (and mistakes) to learn from. That's a good thing, right?
On the other hand, who SAYS we are going to have charters here? Because the last time I looked, every single one of us gets a vote for our opinion. The last time I looked, Bill Gates' father, a rich guy, couldn't get 1098 passed. The head of Costco, another rich guy, couldn't get the state liquor store law changed.
No, it's not over until we, the voters, say it's over.
I had occasion to find a statement I had made at the State Legislature the last time this thing reared its ugly head. This is years back and yet I find much of what I learned then is true now.
- tremendous turnover of teachers in charter schools (worse than regular public schools)
- 15-30% of teachers nationwide who teach in charters are uncertified.
- regulations on charters vary so much state to state that it's hard to make any generalizations about how well charters do
- Rural and suburban districts suffer more from charters than urban schools
- there are huge issues around transportation and facilities (to the point where there are now non-profits that operate solely to find facilities for charters)
- It is unclear what happens to funding if a student leaves a charter for public school (or vice versa) in the middle of the year. Who gets the money?
What is it in those schools that isn't happening? Is it a need for more wrap-around services for students and families? Is it tutoring? Is it smaller class size? Why do we need charters to make these things happen?
The answer is that if the wealthy philanthropists of Washington State want to help - we know what would help. So why not get those things done without a new law?
The answer to that is two-fold. One, it just may be that we can give everything we possibly can at the high-need schools and it won't be enough because schools can't control what happens at home. That may be the honest truth that no one wants to say out-loud.
Two, it's not just about helping those kids. It's about breaking a union. It's about trying to weaken the union. It's about trying to have a revolving door of teachers because they are like Kleenex versus a handkerchief - cheap and disposable. Because, after all, who would make teaching their profession?