First, do NOT bother to write a comment "Melissa, there is no perfect bill or initiative" because I'm sorry - this is an aggressive and vague charter school initiative and there is every reason to be suspicious of it. (Again, like many things that Charlie and I disagree with, if this initiative had been well-written and yes, "modest and reasonable" then I would have far less ground to stand on. )
So let's start with the opening section, 101, which is basically a preamble. You'd think I wouldn't find much here but they get out the gate with a lot of what is overblown and not data-provable rhetoric.
e) Forty-one states have public charter schools with many ranked higher in student performance than Washington's schools;
Yes, and as we know, many rank the same or lower.
f) Allowing public charter schools in Washington will give parents more options to find the best learning environment for their children;
The initiative will give SOME parents more options. The bulk of the schools will be here in the Puget Sound region and, if the charter doesn’t have transportation, even fewer parents will have options.
g) Public charter schools free teachers and principals from burdensome regulations that limit other public schools,
If this is true, why not free ALL schools from burdensome regulations?
h) Public charter schools are designed to find solutions to problems that affect chronically underperforming schools and to better serve at-risk students who most need help;
Absolutely not true. The majority of charters do NOT serve at-risk students and were not designed for that purpose.
i) Public charter schools have cost-effectively improved student performance and academic achievement for students throughout the country, especially for students from the lowest-performing public schools;
Not most of them, not by a long shot. KIPP gets 30% more in private donations than the average public school. Harlem Children’s Zone spends $23k per child via private donations. Those are not scalable nor sustainable as a best practice.
Referring to McCleary school funding decision,
(l) The opportunity to provide education through public charter schools will create efficiencies in the use of the resources the state provides to school districts;
How? It doesn’t say but bringing on more underfunded schools when the existing ones are underfunded will not create efficiencies. Keep in mind; the money paid to authorizers to oversee the charters comes out of education funding. I'll get to that cost later but it's there.
Section 101, page 3, i., ii.,
Allow a maximum of up to forty public charter schools to be established over a five-year period as independently managed public schools operated only by qualified nonprofit organizations approved by the state;
(iii) Require that there will be annual performance reviews of public charter schools created under this measure, and that the performance of these schools be evaluated to determine whether additional public charter schools should be allowed;
You could read this several ways but the word “additional” is troubling along with "should be allowed." Does this mean that the Charter Commmission at year 3 could conclude charters are doing well and authorize more of them to come on-line? Who gets to make that call and is that a backdoor way to not have a cap of 40?
(iv) Require that public charter schools be free and open to all students just like traditional public schools are, and that students be selected by lottery to ensure fairness if more students apply than a school can accommodate;
Does not say that you can’t have an application process to get into the school. More on this later.
Strong last sentence for this section:
Therefore, the people enact this initiative measure to authorize a limited number of public charter schools in the state of Washington, to be operated by qualified nonprofit organizations with strong accountability and oversight, and to evaluate the performance
of these schools and potential benefits of new models for improving academic achievement for all students.
Great but who will evaluate them for benefits? OSPI, Board of Ed, Legislature, Charter Commission? There is no way to know and again, the creation of charters is ostensibly to bring those "potential benefits" to more students. If it is that important to do, why is this sentence so vague on who will do it?