Saturday, August 13, 2016

Feeling a "Distraction"

There are many who are unhappy about the new lawsuit against the new charter school law.  This includes several editorial boards across the state with some exceptions.  What's quite telling about their arguments are three things.

Their arguments seem to be on the notion that this is a frivolous lawsuit and we should just leave the charter schools to do their thing. 

Another issue I found is that some of these editorials so closely mirror each other (down the the use of the word "distraction" in two headlines) that you would think someone faxed out talking points.  The Times uses the word four times.

Still another issue is that some of them are saying it's the teachers union and "a coalition of groups."  Why wouldn't they acknowledge who is in that group which includes parents and solid citizen, non-union groups like League of Women Voters and El Centro de la Raza?  Why? Because they know it would not  serve their viewpoint to be honest on who stood up to put their names on the lawsuit.

It's also of interest that some editorials leave out that there appear to be a couple of constitutional issues and instead, tell their readers it's about "thwarting the will of the voters."  The Times goes so far as to say it's an "intimidation tactic."

It's a sad day when trying to stand up for the constitution is considered a bad thing.  Maybe the people who wrote these laws should have thought of the constitution as they did their work (see Article 3, Section 22.)  That names the role of the state superintendent and "public schools."  If the state superintendent is to oversee all public schools, does that mean he/she gets to oversee them in the same manner or do charters get a different oversight?  And who decides?  That role is not written into this law. 

 The Times tries to say all the things that charter schools can do like "releasing high-school students into their communities for special projects" when Nova High School has done that for about 30 years.  None of the benefits that they list are things that any regular public school can't do (and Seattle Schools has done at some schools.)

I give the Times credit for not taking the bait from some of the Washington State charter cchools who have made big claims for advancement in academics for their students (and some of this was three months into the school year.)  The Times says "Hard data will come in time."  

The "distraction" for the Times is hollow given they say that it hurts the efforts to figure out McCleary.  I'm certain very few legislators are giving the lawsuit any attention as they do the funding work.

I'll point out that, during the last legislative session, charters had busloads of their students going to Olympia to call for a new law.  And yet, not a single charter school - either in Olympia or via any other public method - raised their voice for McCleary.  Even as they complained to the Charter Commission last spring about not getting as much money as they had hoped from state funding.  Even as they will benefit once McCleary is fully enacted.

So to the Times I say, what about that issue in fighting for funding?


The Times  (I would put up a link but the Times has made their paywall notice come up so fast that I can't even copy the link to put it up here.  But you know where to find them. )

Spokesman Review (Spokane)
To note, the Spokesman Review is right in asserting that their charter schools are different from the others in the state overseen by the Charter Commission.  Spokane School District has two home-grown charters that appear to be thriving and, if we have to have charter schools, that's certainly better than what we see in Western Washington.   And, their charter schools ARE overseen by their elected school board.

But then they get slightly hysterical:
At most, that means 40 schools in a state that has 296 school districts, about 51,000 teachers and more than 1 million students. The state is not going to be overrun with charters, but to hear opponents talk, a sliver of alternative learning will inflict grievous harm on the entire system.
I'd go ask Tacoma School district about that "grievous harm."

So why not just give them a chance?  Sure, but the law has to be molded to our constitution.  And, their editorial board is either being disingenuous or ignorant of the fact that one of the biggest issues around charter schools in the U.S. today is precisely the lifting of caps on their numbers.  (As I previously reported, there is a pivotal vote coming in Massachusetts this fall on that point.)

The Yakima Herald. They go a bit off the rails with this statement:
This lawsuit, in which the Washington Education Association and Washington Association of School Administrators are key players, will do nothing to further the ostensible mission of educators, which is to further the knowledge of the state’s children.
Given that they likely teach about the Washington State constitution in their schools, I would say they are doing exactly the right thing.

Everett Herald
They list most of the plaintiffs.   Here's their understanding:
The fault lies with lawmakers who took an easy path in attempting to correct the charter school system’s funding after the initiative that authorized charter schools was found unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in 2015. The court ruled that the charter school system, overseen by an appointed state commission, wasn’t eligible for taxpayer-supported state funding that is dedicated to “common” or public schools, because voters had no direct representation or oversight of schools in their community.
The legislation appears to secure charter schools funding from a source outside of the general fund, but then takes the same amount, money that is due children in public schools, out of the general fund to make the scholarship fund whole. The lawsuit calls it a “shell game.”
Lawmakers who supported the legislation and now critics of the WEA lawsuit are only pretending that taxpayer money isn’t still supporting charter schools without providing the voter representation that the Supreme Court required.
In closing, I'll just say for "public schools" charter schools surely run themselves differently.

For example, public schools clearly state their school calendars.  At least two of charters have no calendar available or only a partial calendar.

Public schools let you see their enrollment form.  Many of the charters use School Mint and you have to give them your e-mail or phone number to even view the form.  What's the big mystery?

Lastly, here's a recent tweet from Peter Cunningham who is the director of the pro-ed reform blog, Education Post (funded by the Walton Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Michael Bloomberg Foundation and Laurene Powell Jobs foundation, The Emerson Collective):
By definition charters supplant public schools. We don’t have infinite number of kids. Can’t protect schools parents don’t want.
Any confusion on why teachers unions, parents and other community groups might not be worried with that attitude and that kind of backing financial firepower?

One last thing (via Mercedes Schneider's blog):

In March 2016, the Emerson Collective gained a new “managing partner”:
Arne Duncan.


Robert Cruickshank said...

This from the Spokesman-Review is interesting: "The state is not going to be overrun with charters, but to hear opponents talk, a sliver of alternative learning will inflict grievous harm on the entire system."

Yet right now we are seeing an extremely well-funded effort in Massachusetts to lift the charter cap so that charters would indeed inflict grievous harm on the state, as charters would massively proliferate and take even more than the $400 million a year they take from public schools in that state.

I often ask charter proponents in Washington State if they would promise to never advocate to raise the cap, or if they would oppose raising the cap. Not a single one has ever said they would.

NO 1240 said...

Attempts to privatize education and lift caps will continue.

A lawsuit has been filed and documents call attention to ALE dollars that got diverted to charter schools. Charter schools received private funding to stay open. For at least two charter schools, these dollars were diverted to a private account. It will be interesting to see whether or not the court will order those dollars back to the state. Can you imagine the yowling??

Charlie Mas said...

We can't have an income tax because the legislature will expand it beyond control, but there will only be forty charter schools, so what's the problem?

Anonymous said...

The only thing the elected Spokane School Board oversees is the contracts with the two charter schools they authorized. Each of the charter schools have their own appointed boards that govern the operations of the schools, just like all the other charter schools in the state.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Catherine, that is true; they probably have very little to do with the schools.

They however decide WHO gets to open in their district (and there's a secret handshake with the Charter Commission that the CC would not open schools in their district even though the law allows for that.)

They also get to write the contract in their own way (probably specific to the district) and may even be able to decide where they might locate.

But good questions to ask.

Anonymous said...

If you are curious what happens to school districts when charters overrun the area look to Tennessee, a state very similar in tax structure to Washington State. The school board election in Nashville will provide some insight into that bee's nest.

Then you have North Carolina. You have New Orleans which that grand experiment is slowly pushing the schools back to a more public orientation but there are many problems in NOLA so that is perhaps an unfair comparison.

But look at Nashville Public Schools they are a walking disaster thanks to charters. The parallels to Seattle are uncanny.


Gemunis Sinumeg said...

I hope that things would work out for the best.