I don't know if the Washington State Charter School Initiative provides much accountability, but it sure does have a lot of process. First there are authorizers. The Authorizers are the folks who can review and approve applications for the creation of charter schools and then must provide those schools with oversight. They get 4% of the school's operating budget for these services. The law creates a new state commission which will be an authorizer. School districts, if they want to participate in their own destruction, can apply to the commission to also be authorizers.
Then there are the charter school applicants. The applicants send their plans for charter schools to the authorizers and the authorizers decide if the plans meet the standards for approval. But not all applicants who have approved plans will be allowed to create schools.
There are three ways that a charter school could be formed:
- A non-profit organization could make a plan for creating a new school and apply.
- A simple majority of the teachers in a school could choose to convert their school to a charter school.
- A simple majority of the families in a school could choose to convert their school to a charter school.
The new law, if passed, would allow only eight charter schools a year - statewide. So if there are more than eight approved applications in the state for the year, then the eight applicants that are permitted to actually create their schools will be selected by lottery from among all of the approved plans.
Let's say that there are six approved plans in the first year. In that case, all six of them will be allowed to open their schools. But let's say that there are ten approved plans in that first year. In that case, only eight of the ten will be allowed to open their schools. Still, each approved applicant would have an 80% chance of being chosen in the lottery. What if there are a thousand approved applications? In that case, eight of them will be chosen and each applicant's chances of being selected are 0.8%.
You might wonder - how could there be a thousand applicants? Even if KIPP, Green Dot and RocketShip all applied to create schools in the first year, there couldn't be more than six to ten applications. Yes, but what if the state teachers' union, the WEA, encouraged their members to vote to convert their schools - all of them - to charter schools? Then there could easily be a thousand applications for charter schools. How could all of those teams of teachers complete a charter school application? It's a fairly complex document and, let's remember, teachers already have a full-time job. The WEA could help by writing a really good template. Then each school community could just make the little changes needed to customize the application for their school. Let's give the WEA the benefit of the doubt and presume that their template application will be good enough to win approval.
By the way, it's really going to slow things down if that commission needs to review hundreds or thousands of applications instead of just a dozen or fewer.
If there are 1,000 approved applications for charter schools and 992 of them are from the WEA, then the odds that any other application will be selected at random is pretty slim - somewhere around a 94% probability that they will be completely shut out each year and about a 73% probability that they will get completely shut out for all five years (if they persist in making application). We are not going to see many KIPP, Green Dot, or RocketShip schools in Washington this way.
Of course, the selected schools would then have to become charters, right? No, they wouldn't. They are under no obligation to actually form the charter school they applied to create. On the other hand, they would be free to do it. They could just continue to operate the school as they had before - they could also make any changes that they wanted to make. It doesn't matter. The goal is to keep the charter operators frozen out of the state.
Here's what is so amazingly, delightfully, subversive about this idea.
- Let's face it; a lot of folks are charter school supporters because they see charter schools as a means to bust the teachers' union. What irony if the teachers' union is the charter school manager. These folks are upset by the delusional idea that the teachers union controls schools - imagine how they will react when the teachers' union actually DOES control the school. Mwah ha ha. Blood vessels will by popping all over the ERAO (Education Reform Advocacy Organization) world. This irony is soooo sweet it's giving me diabetes.
- The teachers' union might just actually have some damn fine ideas about how schools should be operated. What a burn if these schools are actually created and successful. I think that would really throw a spotlight on what is wrong with public K-12 education - and it ain't the teachers or the union.
- The creation of any additional charter schools is predicated on the success of the forty schools created by this initiative. For the charter school advocates to get any more charter schools they will have to say that the WEA did a great job of running schools. Hee hee hee. In fact, they will have to talk for five solid years about what a swell job that the WEA is doing with these schools. The very idea of it will probably make them swallow their tongues.
- The state legislature might want to step in and fix this little error in the law. Only they couldn't do that for at least two years. The state legislature is prohibited from amending laws passed by initiative for two years after the initiative passes and is enacted. Even after that, I don't know if there would be enough support to amend the law in the legislature.
- The teachers at these schools may form a union, but the law says that they must be their own independent bargaining unit. They could, however, simply adopt whatever contract the rest of the teachers in their district adopt. After all, the teachers' union will be on both sides of the table. I'm pretty sure they will have no trouble reaching an agreement with themselves.
- The teachers at these schools - if any such schools are formed - will be the governing body for the school. They will be the principal's boss - if there's a principal at all. The principal (if there is one) will be in an odd position, much like the commissioner of baseball, in which they will be bossed by the people they are supposed to manage. I have to believe that it would lead to some pretty progressive management style. If that sounds crazy to you, then please ponder how it is different from democratically elected mayors, governors, and presidents.
The more I think about this the more I like it.