Liv Finne has written a blog piece about the WSPTA's vote in opposition to I-1240. The article appears on the Washington Policy Center blog and also on Crosscut.
Her premise is that the PTA Legislative Assembly voted to support charter schools, but the WSPTA Board, in a fit of anti-democratic elitism, negated that vote by deciding to voice opposition to I-1240, thereby going against the will of their constituents.
It's an effective bit of rhetoric that will be convincing - for folks who don't know anything about the issue other than what Ms Finne has told them. It is also, of course, completely false.
Let's begin with the WSPTA and the anti-democratic nature of their legislative assembly. The meetings and the vote are held over two days in a SeaTac hotel. So first of all, the only people who can attend and vote are those who can afford to spend two days in SeaTac. Sorry, working people, not you. Sorry middle-class folks from outside the area, not you. Then, in case that wasn't enough of a barrier, there is a registration fee of over $100. So let's not pretend that the legislative assembly represents some ideal of democracy. The vote on charters at the assembly was 170-92, which means that out of the tens of thousands of PTA members, only 262 got to vote on this resolution. Hardly a shining example of democracy in 2012 when the PTA could have allowed every member to vote online at almost no cost. It wouldn't have been a good example of democracy in 1912 when every member could have voted by mail.
But never mind that. Didn't they vote to support charter schools? Yes, they did. Actually, if you bother to learn more about it than the headline, they voted to give conditional support to charter schools. The legislative assembly voted to support charter schools only if the charter school law meet conditions for local control and only if it includes assurances of family involvement in decision-making. I-1240 doesn't include those elements and therefore does not meet the conditions for WSPTA support.
So the WSPTA Board vote endorsing a NO vote on I-1240, rather than negating the position of the WSPTA Legislative Assembly, actually aligns with the position of the Legislative Assembly.
I presume that Ms Finne knows this. This means one of two things. Either she is making an intentionally false argument to try to counter the impact of the WSPTA Board's vote on an ignorant electorate, or she represents something much more dangerous: dichotomous thinking.
Could it be that Ms Finne's understanding is that there are only two possibilities: either you are for charters or you are against charters. Does she think that there is no middle ground, no place for nuance, and no conditional response possible? Does she think that either you support them, all of them in all cases, or oppose them, all of them in all cases? That would be very bad. It would be particularly bad for the Charter School Commission because one of the qualification for eligibility to serve on that commission is support for charter schools. How could someone who supports charter schools ever decide to close one?
If the members of the Charter School Commission support charter schools in this dichotomous way, they would never vote to close one. That would negate all of the assurances of accountability for charter schools in this initiative. That's a negation of a vote that I would complain about.