In their usual no-nonsense manner, The Stranger laid out its opposition to 1240, pretty much calling it smoke and mirrors.
If there were a single credible, independent, peer-reviewed study to
suggest that charter schools do a better job of educating children than
traditional public schools, we might drop our opposition to this
measure. But there isn't. A widely cited Stanford University study finds
that 17 percent of charters do substantially better, while 37 percent
do substantially worse. Maybe it's our public-school education, but we
don't like those odds.
I-1240 would draw scarce funding from existing public schools, while
handing control over these dollars from elected school boards to private
boards. A petition signed in secret by a majority of a school's parents
could initiate the conversion of your neighborhood school to a charter
school, but there's no like provision to convert a charter school back
to a public school. Charters are nominally nonprofit, but there's
nothing to stop them from contracting operations to for-profit
companies. There's a lot of money to be made off of I-1240, hence the
$8.3 million backing it got from the likes of Alice Walton, the Bezos
family, Paul Allen, and Bill Gates. (The idea that Bill Gates, who never
set foot in a public school as either a student or a parent, should
tell us how to run them is doubly insulting.)
Proponents argue this is only a test run, allowing just 40 charters
statewide over the next five years. But we know a foot in the door when
we see one. Once voters approve even this limited measure, lawmakers
will lose their aversion toward expanding its scope. But mostly, we
object to the timing. In the wake of the state supreme court's landmark McCleary
v. State decision requiring billions more for basic education,
charter school advocates have squandered the opportunity to actually
fund our public schools, pushing a divisive, ineffective, free market
I will note a couple of things.
I believe Mr. Gates did attend Laurelhurst Elementary for a couple of years. But it is true that none of his children have ever attended public school.
They are quite right about the "foot in the door" or, as a gentleman at the One Stop Ballot Shop event last night put it "a gateway."