Sunday, December 02, 2012

Charters and Levys

A lot of folks have said that, following the approval of the recent charter school initiative, they will not vote to approve any more school levies. What right do charters have to local levy funds? Specifically, what right could future charter schools have to the upcoming levies in Seattle Public Schools?



Four parts of Section 222, Funding, of I-1240 refer to levy money:

(5) For charter schools authorized by a school district board of directors, allocations to a charter school that are included in RCW 84.52.0531(3) (a) through (c) shall be included in the levy planning, budgets, and funding distribution in the same manner as other public schools in the district.
(6) Conversion charter schools are eligible for local levy moneys approved by the voters before the conversion start-up date of the school as determined by the authorizer, and the school district must allocate levy moneys to a conversion charter school.
(7) New charter schools are not eligible for local levy moneys approved by the voters before the start-up date of the school unless the local school district is the authorizer.
(8) For levies submitted to voters after the start-up date of a charter school authorized under this chapter, the charter school must be included in levy planning, budgets, and funding distribution in the same manner as other public schools in the district.
There are two kinds of charters: new charters and conversion charters. Per sub-section (7), bolded above, no new charter school would be entitled to any of the money in the upcoming levy elections. Conversion charters, on the other hand, are governed by sub-section (6).

I'm afraid that sub-section (6) is pretty vague. It has this dangling modifier: "as determined by the authorizer". What is the authorizer determining? Whether conversion charters are eligible for local levy money, or whether the levy money was approved by the voters before the conversion start-up date? It says that the school district must allocate levy money to the conversion charter, but it doesn't say HOW they must do it. Could they allocate one dollar? It's unclear.

Given the ambiguity, the District might want to consider adding an element to the levy language that clearly states that any charter schools, whether new or conversion, will get exactly one dollar from the levy. It could save the levy some votes.

Also, you will note that there is no reference to bond issues. While school districts must share levy money with charter schools, there is no requirement that they share any bond issue proceeds.

14 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good points all, Charlie and again, it points to how poorly-written this thing is.

If this is not clarified by whoever is now going to write the regulations for it, yes, every district would appear to be able to decide how much they would give (and I would only give a dollar as well). I would assume the district also would have leeway on WHEN they give any share to a charter.

I find it astonishing that districts (under another section) have to advertise any charters in their district (whether they authorized them or not) AND have to include charters in their levy planning. (Of course, like the "transportation plan" that a charter has to have, the district "plan" for charter inclusion in their levy planning might be "if it passes, they get a dollar."

All this poor wording will allow a district to leeway on what they will or will not do and force any charter to take a district to court (if the charter feels the district isn't complying).

I would say that as it stand now, a district only has to adhere to the spirit of the initiative due to any lack of specifics.

While it is true that the initiative does not include bond measures, this section does include operations AND capital levies.

I concur with Charlie; I have seen in numerous places many commenters to 1240 stories say they will not vote for any levy that will benefit a charter school.

With the levies coming so soon after the election and the doubt about whether there will be a court case(2) over 1240, the lag time between the levy vote and the creation of any conversion charters (which would be the only charters for this levy cycle eligible for levy money) means it will be a hard choice for some voters.

Charlie Mas said...

Whoever writes the "pro" entry in the Voter's Guide needs to be sure to include some part that says that a new charter school cannot get any part of this money.

Whoever writes the levy language really should include some that says any conversion charter will get exactly one dollar of the capital levy.

On the other hand, if I were writing the "con" entry in the Voter's Guide for either of these levies I would claim that any future charter schools would have a claim on the money. True or not, that's what I would write.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, the pro will be written by people from Schools First and I doubt they will even mention any issue that they believe might spook voters. (Even if it were to clarify this issue to those who might wonder about it.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, the pro will be written by people from Schools First and I doubt they will even mention any issue that they believe might spook voters. (Even if it were to clarify this issue to those who might wonder about it.)

Disgusted said...

Clearly, from a financial perspective, I 124-0 was written to favor conversion charters.

I suspect we'll see some families attemptiong to hold the district hostage to their desires. "Give us what we want, or we'll submit an application to become a charter school.". Of course, any such action would be entirely short sighted.

Anonymous said...

What's to prevent the "con" side from making these points? Board and district will need to pull their heads out of the sand.

I voted no on seawall and fingerprint system. I'm getting used to saying no.

naysayer

Anonymous said...

Melissa mentions doubt about whether there will be a court case over 1240...
I was under the impression that it was pretty much a certainty that there would be one? OR was that just my hope? Is there more current info on this?
Thanks,
Beth

Charlie Mas said...

The great thing about Voter's Guide statements is that they don't have to be true.

The "con" side can say anything they want. They can not only say that a charter school would get some of the money, but that the Charter School Commission gets to decide how much of the levy goes to charter schools. They can even say that the levy money will go to schools in other districts.

This would, in fact, be true if the state goes for the "levy swap" scam.

In that case, the money raised by local levies that we approve here in Seattle could be taken by the state and spent in other districts - districts that voted down their local levies or even didn't vote for levies at all.

Even if the claims were exaggerated and false, the "pro" side would have to address them. Sometimes it's enough in politics to get your opponent to deny stuff.

After all, the last levy, the supplemental one, was not spent as the "pro" side promised it would be, on new books for students. All of their denials about how the money will actually be spent will be known to be empty promises.

Charlie Mas said...

Who is writing the "con" piece for the Voter's Guide? I have some really effective ideas for them.

Happy Jack Chesbro said...

Statutes (and initiatives) often have ambiguities and must be clarified through litigation in our judicial system. (e.g. what does "paramount duty" and "basic education" mean?).

This initiative is really no different.

Should this referendum pass constitutional muster (which I doubt) then there will be regulations promulgated to help with its day to day implementation.

Charlie points out the ambiguous nature of the this particular provision. If a court deems the language to be ambiguous, then it will turn to the intention of the voters when it was passed. (I don't have a citation in front of me).

It is easier to do this when you are interpreting an ambiguous statute because you have the legislative record to review.

One thing that surprised me when I was doing my research was that courts will look to the Voters' Guide to help interpret an initiative. (I don't have the citation in front of me but I could get it).

While I had always recognized the importance of the Voters' Guide in persuading voters, I had not realized that courts will use them to help interpret initiatives.

After reading the cases, I have come to the conclusion that this is even more important than persuading voters.

I don't have the Voters' Guide in front of me and, frankly, don't remember what was written it. But did the drafters of the anti-initiative point out this language and how it could be interpreted?

Who wrote the anti-charter school piece? They might be able to play some role in determining how this initiative can be interpreted. Did it point out the ambiguities?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Beth, you misunderstood what I wrote. I DO believe there will be a court case (maybe more).

Charlie, per my previous thread, Ron English is looking for someone to write to Con for the Operations levy. Give him a call and you can write it.

Well, the Voters Guide has problems itself so that may be an issue as well. I don't recall that the Con side of the initiative did mention how fraught with enforcement issues that it is.

What thing I find very funny is this idea that the Charter Commission has to be made up of charter cheerleaders. Reallly? Go telll Frank Chopp, Jay Inslee and Brad Own that. Who is going to enforce that?

Charlie Mas said...

Here's the thing, although I'm pretty sure that I could write a killer piece for the opposition to the operations levy for the voter's guide, I wouldn't because I don't oppose the levy. I support it. I support investment in our public resources and in our schools in particular. Our kids need this levy.

dorainseattle said...

Lisa MacFarland wqith DFER is pushing for the levy, so is Kerry Cooley-Stroum with LEV so you know there's money to be made for charter schools in the language.

They're having an info session with Kohl-Welles Thursday night at Coe.

By the way, Students First is an organization to be wary of as well. Remember when they gave the names of our students to DMA, the marketing firm?

They illegally shared the private contact info of 10,700 SPS students and 1,400 teachers with DMA Marketing/Strategies 360 in 2009. This led to the creation of the "Our Schools Coalition."

See:
http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/should-the-school-district-be-allowed-to-give-our-kids%E2%80%99-phone-numbers-addresses-and-photos-to-every-tom-dick-and-pollster/

Buyer beware.

Dora


Anonymous said...


Students First is former Washington, D.C. school district leader Michelle Rhee's organization.

--Old School Music