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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

No On 1240 Campaign

In the "tag you're it" section, I looked around a couple of months ago and realized that no one seemed to mounting a campaign against charter schools.  So I'm the head of the No On 1240 campaign.  I have a great steering committee (all parents) and great supporters down in Tacoma and we have a starting list of volunteers.

I put a link to our campaign on the blog to the right of the threads.  It is chock-full of information (unlike the Yes side - they have 4 FAQs, we have about 25).  We also have a Facebook page and we're at Twitter (No_On_1240).

No, we don't have the incredibly deep pockets of the Yes side.  But then, that didn't win it in 2000 or 2004.  The Yes campaign is at about $4m with about $3M of it coming from six families either associated with Microsoft or Amazon.  President Obama recently said that he would rather have thousands of grassroots supporters than one guy writing a $10M check.  I agree.

It was amusing to hear Tim Ceis of the Yes campaign at the 37th Dems last night - they voted to endorse a No vote - tell the crowd "Who do Washington voters think they are not having charters like the other 41 states?"  Well, I guess we're people who don't vote like lemmings, that's who we are.

We stand in alliance with the other No campaign, People for Our Public Schools.   We believe it is a good thing to have as many groups, parents and citizens as possible working against this initiative.

I want to state this upfront - I would not be doing this if I did not believe this initiative is wrong for Washington State. 

More importantly - I believe public education in Washington State is turning around.

Here's the thing about charters. 

Accountability?  That's a funny thing.  People like to say they are growing and growing so that's must be evidence they work. 

One, there are more because it is difficult - and this has been reported by the Feds - to close charters.  As someone who had to face the challenge of closing schools, I can tell you that NO ONE wants their school closed.  Charter or otherwise, they will fight you to the death. 

And, of course, if someone is making money off the school remaining open, it's even a bigger fight.

Two, we're Americans, folks, and we like choices.  If you have more choices, aren't you happier?  And so it is with public education.   That the outcomes are not better doesn't seem to matter to some.  Being happy with your child's school is NOT the same as having better academic outcomes.  With scarce education dollars, better academic outcomes are what we are looking for today.

Here in Washington State, it makes even less sense to invest in this way because we don't even fully-fund our EXISTING schools.  We don't even fund to the national average.  So we want to take scarce dollars, thin the pot for the existing schools, start up (and under-fund) charter schools and cross our fingers for better.   

And Charlie is right on this point - you are voting for a hope with this initiative.  Because there are absolutely no guarantees in this initiative that the type of schools some might hope will open actually will.

None.  The "preference" for charters that serve at-risk students?  Well, there is absolutely no explanation of what that should look like.  Should they rank them?  Should they assign points?  Each authorizer gets to figure it out for themselves. 

And, keep in mind, that under the definition of "at-risk" students that is in the initiative, it includes -  gasp - Advanced Learning. 

I can imagine the gaskets that would be blown by some if a charter was set up just for Advanced Learners.  But yes, under this initiative, not only could it happen but they would fall into that "preference" category.

But again, that word "preference" means nothing.  The next line after the preference line says that NOTHING prevents any other kind of charter from being started. 

As well, get over 8 approved charters and will the Board of Education pick out the ones that serve at-risk kids?  Nope.  Will they pick out the ones that come from the most experienced and results-proven charter groups?  Nope.  It's a lottery.

I can't take these charter supporters seriously when they talk about helping at-risk kids and the best they can do is a lottery for the types of charters to be approved. 

And, there is no mandate for transportation.  If you are a poor family your "choice" of a charter is negated if you can't get your child to the school.  

What about that trigger issue?  Oh, sorry, I meant "conversion charter."  Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck - it's a trigger petition and it's the harshest one in the country.

Of course, you then with conversion charters you lose district buildings.  Oh, the district still owns them but they have zero control over them.  But, the district still has to pay for major maintenance and so if you've been waiting in line for your major maintenance dollars, sorry, the charter school WILL be first in line.

Keep in mind, charters do not have to act as the district does.  If they don't want community meetings or Scout meetings in the building, they have no obligation to continue them.   

Taxpayers could lose dollars when cash-strapped districts sell or lease school buildings for less than they are worth (and they HAVE to give any charter right of first refusal).  

These are just a few of the problems with this initiative that is both vague and poorly-written.

There are not anywhere near strong enough safeguards in place.

Schools (and districts) WILL lose dollars and, for some, it will badly weaken them. For those who believe Superintendent Banda has his work cut out for him, consider what will happen to that work if charters come on the scene.  
In closing, I think of what the physicians' motto  - First, do no harm.

I sincerely believe that this initiative, if approved, will do far more harm than good.

I urge you to consider why the Washington State PTA - who has, over the last year, leaned heavily towards charters - said no.  There is virtually nothing in this initiative to include parents nor enough local elected control. 

It's not worth it unless you believe voting yes and then crossing your fingers is going to work to create better public education in Washington State.

18 comments:

Eric B said...

It's worse than a lottery for which charters get picked. The first ones out of the gate get the slots. The lottery only comes in if applications are approved "simultaneously." What does that mean? Who knows? It could be "all applications received by April 10 are considered to be received simultaneously." Could be "applications are simultaneous if they hit our email inbox in the same minute." It's up to the State Board of Education to figure that out.

And that brings up another major flaw in the initiative. It's badly written. They either didn't have someone look for loopholes or didn't care when they were found. You can drive trucks through the loopholes in this document.

Georgi K. said...

I hope you write a detailed editorial for the Seattle Times. They need another viewpoint than the constant support for charters by Lynne Varner.

I emailed her yesterday and complained about the unrelenting support for charters. It is my view that many older voters do not read the comments online that challenge many of the newspaper’s ed reform views.

Good luck on your campaign to support public schools. I hope people reject it for a fourth time.

Georgi K

Mary Griffin said...

And in the predictable news department publicola writes that the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce has voted to support charter schools.

Anonymous said...

DSA also is very publicly advocating for SPS to pony up $$ for a downtown school.

Do these to things go hand in hand? Downtown provides space, SPS provides land and wham, in comes a charter?

It is all so powerpoint logical isn't it. The Alliance for Education, which is paid for by the Downtown Chamber, is getting its ducks in a row about as transparently as that group ever is. Hope someone on this blog writes about this.

"I Hate The Idea of Charters"

Analytical One said...


Thanks for the update and good analysis; readers of this blog know where you stand on the initiative and its shortcomings. Yet, a does of realism forces the question: what is the "disaster recovery plan" if the initiative passes, as seems likely based on the polls, at this point?

Meg said...

Would you invest in a company that had a less-than 20% chance of improving your current dollars, but an over-80% chance of doing the same or worse? Of course not. It would be monumentally dumb. You might as well play the slots as an investment strategy.

And yet those are the odds we're playing with our children's education if we vote yes on charters.

Anonymous said...

I agree that you should try to pen a detailed commentary and submit it to the Times. I'd love to see if they would publish it. Patterned after this post, it would do a lot of good I think.

n...

Unknown said...

Anaylical One, first of all it IS early. I don't worry about the polls especially because the number of people undecided is quite large.

Second, you live by the vote, you die by the vote. Our campaign is out there trying to educate people (and you should send a link to the website to 10 people you know). We are working hard and I feel like we have time to educate people. (Ask me that when Gates &Co unlease their tsunami of tv and radio ads.)

But, if the voters decide that this is their choice, they have to live with the results. I can certainly stand by and shake my head (and even say I told you so but what a hollow thing) but am I going to offer any ideas?

I am not.

That's up to the districts and school boards and parents to figure out. I'm trying to save our public education system NOW but after the fact?

FYI, LIv Finne over at the Washington Policy Center is saying that she thinks 37 of the 40 charters will end up being conversion schools so look for major takeovers in Seattle (because charters are largely an urban thing).

Those of you who care about BEX IV projects and money, well, if you have conversion schools, they WILL take BEX IV dollars (and also the operation levy dollars).

SurveyTool said...
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ba san said...
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Anonymous said...

First of all, please delete the spam post immediately above this one.

Second, for everybody's information, last night the 34th District Democrats, with about 100 people in attendance, endorsed a NO vote on Initiative 1240.

That might have been expected, but not a unanimous vote. That's right -- unanimous. I counted several known charter school advocates in the room, and not a one of them raised a peep against the motion.

I like to think that my approach had something to do with it. In my 2-minute speech in favor of a "NO" position, I pointed out that 1240 contained no oversight for, and no accountability mechanism for our tax dollars that would be funneled toward charter schools should this initiative become law.

Then I delivered the zinger, which I hope will go viral: "Any Tim Eyman initiative has more safeguards for public money than this initiative does."

I said that because it is true. No matter what your position might be on charter school, I-1240 fails every imaginable test of good governance and sound public policy. If we can drive these points home to the electorate, we will beat this abominable piece of work.

-- Ivan Weiss

Anonymous said...

MONDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2011

Charter Schools; First in a Series - What They Are
I plan to cover:
what they are
history
the landscape today
pros and cons

I was wondering if you've done the pros and cons post and I just missed it. Looks like you've covered all the others.

Thanks for your time.
WWmom

Melissa Westbrook said...

WWMom, I think that was an early list of topics and I have, with the entire series, covered the gamut.

If charters were what they are supposed to be - hotbeds of innovation with real accountability - I'd be for them. There are probably a few of these throughout the country but most are not.

And, in particular, there is ZERO reason to vote for 1240. It is a disaster waiting to happen and I will be sorry if it passes to watch this all unfold.

monster said...

the people of Washington vote to allow charter schools you vote against the BEX levy, how republican of you.

Unknown said...

Monster, who said they were voting against BEX IV in this thread?

Not me and I don't see anyone else so I'm confused by your comment.

mirmac1 said...

monster, how do you know who some of us will vote? Nice try to tar others with your silly turd brush ('scuse the impolitic tone)

Mary Griffin said...

Nice article in Seattle Weekly on Melissa Westbrook and her efforts for No on 1240. http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2012/09/melissa_westbrook_a_longtime_e.php

monster said...

well by talking that the BEX funds wouldbe tied charters seemed like a veiled threat to me. the impolite tone is forgiven