I saw that the Washington Policy Center (which is basically a right-wing thinktank) did a poll and they say that 60% of the people surveyed say they support allowing charters and 64% say they support allowing "low-income and minority children in urban neighborhoods" to attend them. They surveyed 400 adults statewide. It doesn't say when the poll was taken.
The idea of changing state law to allow charter public schools found support in all areas of the state – 55% of respondents in Eastern Washington and 61% in Western Washington supported allowing charters, including 58% in King County and a slim majority (51%) in Seattle.
The highest level of opposition was reported in Seattle, where 32% said they strongly or somewhat oppose allowing charter public schools. Opposition in King County as a whole was 25%.
Now they start their press release saying:
Charter public schools are currently banned in Washington.
No, they're not. They are not legally permitted and there's a big difference. There is NO law "banning" charters. There has been legislation about charters that was voted down or rescinded by public vote but no ban. But it's a good word to use if you want to up the ante.
So there were basically two questions. Here's the first one:
1. 41 states & the District of Columbia have charter public schools, independent community- based schools that are tuition-free and take all students...Currently, state law bans such schools in Washington. After hearing this, would you support or oppose changing state law so charter public schools could be opened in Washington State?
I really dislike that "community-based" label because it is not true. Charters do not have to take more community children nor do they have to be based on anything the community wants. They are arguing in other parts of the country over this issue because some communities want a bump for their children to be able to enroll in the school that they can walk to but the charters don't want to change their enrollment procedures to allow that.
Again with the word "ban". Also, they are required to take all students; they do NOT do so much of the time.
2. Would you support or oppose allowing charter public schools to open in urban neighborhoods where state officials report traditional schools are failing to adequately educate low-income and minority children?
Well, you can't load up a question better than that. "Do you want poor children to get out of failing schools? Why yes I do.
The other questions were about age, gender and party ID. I wish they had asked about race since they actually put that issue in as part of the question.
What is interesting to me is that in the interview with McKenna on KUOW yesterday, he emphatically said that if the charter legislation got to the floor of both parts of the Legislature, it would have passed. I have no idea how he thinks he knows this; he could be right. What Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos has said is that it would NOT have been voted out of her committee and I think she would know that.
What I think the charter supporters want is for the legislation to become law. Okay but then it WILL go to a vote of the people where it will, yet again, fail. I know this just as surely as McKenna believes it would pass in the Legislature.
Now Senator Tom said it shouldn't get voted on again because that's "gambling" with education. Just like we "gamble" with voting for President.
The crux of this whole issue is education. Not public education but educating the public.
We have never had charter schools in this state. It is clear to me from months of talking to people and doing these forums and going to LD meetings that people really do not know what charters are. I'm pretty sure with the very little (and skewed) description from the WPC's poll, that most of these respondents didn't really know what charters are except "public community-based schools."
Let it go to a vote - I have no problem with that at all.
(Update: I do want to add that there are a several reasons that the pro-charter side would NOT want this to go to a vote.
One, it has already gone to a vote THREE times and I think there are voters who would be mighty irritated it is coming forth again.
Two, we have a HUGE ballot in November. Good luck getting heard in that crowded field.
Three, they could lose and that might be the final nail in the board.
Four, they wouldn't be able to stick everything in a referendum that they can in this bill. Gone would be Transformation Zone schools and the parent trigger.
It's quite the conundrum.)
Second update: realized that if it did go to a vote it would be a referendum, not an initiative. I'm pretty sure with a referendum, it is a vote on the whole law. In an initiative, charter supporters wouldn't be able to have multiple issues in the initiative (as there is in this law). My error.