New Survey Shows Washington State Supports Charter (Just Ask the Questions the Right Way)

I saw that the Washington Policy Center (which is basically a right-wing thinktank) did a poll and they say that 60% of the people surveyed say they support allowing charters and 64% say they support allowing "low-income and minority children in urban neighborhoods" to attend them. They surveyed 400 adults statewide. It doesn't say when the poll was taken.

The idea of changing state law to allow charter public schools found support in all areas of the state – 55% of respondents in Eastern Washington and 61% in Western Washington supported allowing charters, including 58% in King County and a slim majority (51%) in Seattle.

The highest level of opposition was reported in Seattle, where 32% said they strongly or somewhat oppose allowing charter public schools. Opposition in King County as a whole was 25%.

Now they start their press release saying:

Charter public schools are currently banned in Washington.

No, they're not. They are not legally permitted and there's a big difference. There is NO law "banning" charters. There has been legislation about charters that was voted down or rescinded by public vote but no ban. But it's a good word to use if you want to up the ante.

So there were basically two questions. Here's the first one:

1. 41 states & the District of Columbia have charter public schools, independent community- based schools that are tuition-free and take all students...Currently, state law bans such schools in Washington. After hearing this, would you support or oppose changing state law so charter public schools could be opened in Washington State?

I really dislike that "community-based" label because it is not true. Charters do not have to take more community children nor do they have to be based on anything the community wants. They are arguing in other parts of the country over this issue because some communities want a bump for their children to be able to enroll in the school that they can walk to but the charters don't want to change their enrollment procedures to allow that.

Again with the word "ban". Also, they are required to take all students; they do NOT do so much of the time.

Second question:

2. Would you support or oppose allowing charter public schools to open in urban neighborhoods where state officials report traditional schools are failing to adequately educate low-income and minority children?

Well, you can't load up a question better than that. "Do you want poor children to get out of failing schools? Why yes I do.

The other questions were about age, gender and party ID. I wish they had asked about race since they actually put that issue in as part of the question.

What is interesting to me is that in the interview with McKenna on KUOW yesterday, he emphatically said that if the charter legislation got to the floor of both parts of the Legislature, it would have passed. I have no idea how he thinks he knows this; he could be right. What Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos has said is that it would NOT have been voted out of her committee and I think she would know that.

What I think the charter supporters want is for the legislation to become law. Okay but then it WILL go to a vote of the people where it will, yet again, fail. I know this just as surely as McKenna believes it would pass in the Legislature.

Now Senator Tom said it shouldn't get voted on again because that's "gambling" with education. Just like we "gamble" with voting for President.

The crux of this whole issue is education. Not public education but educating the public.

We have never had charter schools in this state. It is clear to me from months of talking to people and doing these forums and going to LD meetings that people really do not know what charters are. I'm pretty sure with the very little (and skewed) description from the WPC's poll, that most of these respondents didn't really know what charters are except "public community-based schools."

Let it go to a vote - I have no problem with that at all.

(Update: I do want to add that there are a several reasons that the pro-charter side would NOT want this to go to a vote.

One, it has already gone to a vote THREE times and I think there are voters who would be mighty irritated it is coming forth again.

Two, we have a HUGE ballot in November. Good luck getting heard in that crowded field.

Three, they could lose and that might be the final nail in the board.

Four, they wouldn't be able to stick everything in a referendum that they can in this bill. Gone would be Transformation Zone schools and the parent trigger.

It's quite the conundrum.)

Second update: realized that if it did go to a vote it would be a referendum, not an initiative. I'm pretty sure with a referendum, it is a vote on the whole law. In an initiative, charter supporters wouldn't be able to have multiple issues in the initiative (as there is in this law). My error.


Anonymous said…
Melissa, don't you ever feel like you're the only reasonable person in the room? How do you keep up with it all? You and Charlie are teachers. Constantly cleaning up, clarifying and elucidating issues. Pollsters. They are hired to magically change the discussion. Nobody is smart enough or has the time to dodge the constant attack organized by the monied who use every possible trick in the book to confuse and disseminate false claims.

I can't trust polls on the left or the right. I can't trust anything anymore. It not only worries me; it wearies me.

No, my problem is that I KNOW there are bright and reasonable people all around.

The problem for me is knowing that and yet wondering why I don't see more of that in the message that comes from them. I KNOW several people at LEV to be bright women and yet I do not understand their convoluted message.

I honestly believe many people know they are being intellectually dishonest but believe that the end game is the most important thing (get charters into Washington) and the rest will get cleaned up as they go along.
dan dempsey said…
I am reminded of Physics Nobel Prize winner Richard P. Feynman's thoughts on decision making......

If you want a great decision take 4 or 5 folks that are true experts, have them make the decision.

Adding several thousand people to the decision making process will likely screw it up.

He was on the California Math Text adoption committee in 1964 .... He knew things were screwy when publishers offered him assistance in understanding the math texts.... He figured if a Nobel Prize winner could not make sense of any math text... the kids were shafted.

Does WA Policy Center really think argument by poll results is a valuable method to make great decisions about complex issues?

.... Little wonder Ed in WA State is screwed up. In too many places there is NO LEADERSHIP of value.
Anonymous said…
To Dan Dempsey,

It is so good to read your postings again. You stated several days ago that you are backing off from the fight against the corporate takevover of schools and the targeting of teachers...understandable after five years in the trenches of this Sisyphus mess.

I want you to be aware of how much information and support you provide to teachers like me. Your insights and knowledge are invaluable. In addition to intricate data and your acute b.s. radar, your information sources are first rank. I am now a devoted reader of Hattie, and have bookmarked many links (like the recent WWC). I subsequently share the resources with colleagues.

You are a hero, in my book.

By the way, don't let disappointment in DeBell get you down...his karma is likely in overdrive.

--enough already
John said…
Hi Melissa,

Thanks for your phone call this morning requesting a copy of the press release. Glad you received it.

You closed the first paragraph of this blog post with "It [the press release] doesn't say when the poll was taken." Not to question your thoroughness, but the penultimate sentence in the release reads: "The poll was conducted February 19th and 20th and included 400 adults statewide."

John Barnes
Washington Policy Center
Anonymous said…
Note: almost every email from SPSLeaks included the closing:

Linguists study the patterns of language and the users of those patterns...and, voila!--affinities and groups become soooo evident.

--enough already
seattle citizen said…
It's no surprise that WPS found 400 respondents to give it the response they needed. After years (at least three) of coordinated propaganda by Gates, Broad, Alliance, LEV, the Times, and recently others, such as Crosscut, it's no surprise that many people are mis-informed about the truth.

Luckilu, we have this blog, and others, such as Parents Across America and Seattle Education 2010, to provide a balanced perspective. And I've noted that many, many people seem to be becoming aware of the propaganda machine that is Big Ed Reform.

Yay! The truth will out.
Anonymous said…
We got the call, but did not pick up an unknown caller.

Number will transfer straight to voice mail for future.

I wonder about being a part of the select few to receive the call. Or, maybe it is just that a select few received the initial call.

Only four groups I can think of that shared our number for survey contact...

1. SPS (last year - this year we only gave cell phone to avoid those 6 am calls.)
2. King County Elections
3. SCPTSA (as have served as an officer.)
4. Alliance for Education (as have donated to our school with A4E as the intermediary.)

- Straight to Voicemail
Anonymous said…
Agree with SC that voters are becoming more aware.

The most recent school board election is evidence.

- Straight to Voicemail
Anonymous said…
I am a liberal person, educated entirely (K- Law school) in public schools.

It is precisely all of my interactions with SPS that has even made me consider charters and (shudder) vouchers as something to support. Up until I had a school-aged child, I was vehemently anti-charter.

Anonymous said…
So what worked for you that's not working for your kid, Reap?

Charlie Mas said…
I certainly understand the interest in charter schools. People see the results from public schools, or see something that suggests that our public schools are mired in failure, and they want something different. That's what we do in our consumer culture. We replace one product or service with another. Don't like Kellogs? Switch to Post. Angry with Ford? Get a Chevy. As one of our leading political figures has said "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn't give me a good service that I need, I want to say, 'I'm going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.'"

It runs deep. The power of competition to spur providers to give consumers more for less is one of this nation's greatest myths. It is one of our sacred beliefs.

Charter schools don't just offer a facile answer for a consumer culture. As you learn more about public education you will quickly discover that the primary obstacle to changing schools so they work better for children, and the primary frustration for teachers are counter-productive rules set by district-level administrators. These are the highest paid people in public education, they never teach any children, and we only hear about them when they so something stupid, like sell a school for millions less than its value, run scams, or claim that clocks are racist. Then here come charter schools which are distinctive in that they have escaped the authority of these managers and bureaucrats. Sounds like the way to go, doesn't it?

So charter schools are more than just the easy answer for disappointed consumers. They are also the easy answer for folks who know what's wrong with public education. So why aren't they the right answer?

They aren't the right answer because the consumer dissatisfaction is largely misplaced. Not only won't you become thin if you eat Special K instead of Corn Flakes, but you aren't fat now - people aren't supposed to be as thin as runway models.

They aren't the right answer because competition doesn't produce the widest choices. On the contrary, it tends to reduce the range of choice as all of the competitors focus on the same part of the market. Maybe you shouldn't be looking at the Ford or the Chevy, but at the Zenn.

Finally, even if illogical, counter-productive district-level administrative rules are the primary impediment to significant improvement in our schools, the solution is not to build a new bureaucracy modeled on the current one, but to implement new rules.

The truth is that our schools are good - better than people want you to believe. And charter schools are no better.

The truth is that the vast majority of charter schools are not innovative. They are only incrementally different from our public schools - if they are different at all.

The truth is that charter schools rarely take advantage of their freedom to make revolutionary change; they operate largely as if they were bound by the district rules.

The real solution to our school troubles lie in setting rational expectations, re-designing our education system around a post-industrial model for the 21st century, and address the real root of academic failure, the opportunity gap. Charters won't do any of those things - at least they are no more likely to do them than our public schools.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
I"m reposting this comment by an anonymous person who seems to not know how to read (both because he or she posted anonymously and didn't read our policy and because I answered their question right in the thread):

"Three times the public has passed a law saying that it takes 2/3rds vote in the legislature to raise taxes. Bet you aren't in favor of listening to the public on this one.

Santos said the bill wouldn't make it out of her committee, not because it didn't have majority votes to pass it, but because she did not want it. She killed it without allowing a vote."

Santos said on KUOW that the bill would NOT have passed out of her committee (and said nothing about "she didn't want it"). Where is the source of your information?
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Sorry. I didn't see the part about unsigned. (I saw lots of postings with anonymous signatures, and now I realize why.) I should change that last posting to include my signature:

Anonymous said…
In case I'm not given a second break, the second comment I made was that we will never know if Santos had the votes or not for the charter bill. A vote was never held.

Same thing happened in McAuliffe's committee.

I'm not sure why we elect legislators. The leadership runs everything. Nothing happens that they don't approve of. We could save lots of money if we stopped the charade.

Or we encourage our legislators to get a backbone and do the job we sent them to Olympia to do. That does not include being the puppets of the leadership.

Anonymous said…
Just for the record, in case you are wondering where I got the silly notion that Santos killed the charter school bill, rather than let it be voted on (and most likely pass):


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