Legal Issues for I-1240

Interesting article/op-ed from The Sun Break about just some of the legal issues that may arise from I-1240. 

Another question is whether charter schools are in fact "common schools" (i.e., public schools), as required by the Washington State constitutionif they are to receive public funds:The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools. The public school system shall include common schools, and such high schools, normal schools, and technical schools as may hereafter be established. But the entire revenue derived from the common school fund and the state tax for common schools shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools. 

I-1240 simply states that charter schools are public schools. But that’s precisely what’s at issue with the debate over charter schools versus public schools. Are they? Is it still a “general and uniform system” if charter schools are granted the freedom with curriculum they’ve been granted, and are overseen by non-elected school boards? University of Washington law professor Hugh Spitzer argues that the State Supreme Court has already set a precedent in how common schools are defined–they must be under the control of voters in a school district, which charter schools are not.

Their op-ed raises some interesting questions about different votes and repeats what I have said; when you have scarce education dollars, you spend them on what you know has the best chance for better outcomes.  We don't vote on a wish and a hope.

There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to square the entrepreneurial drive behind charter schools with the requirements of uniformity mandated in the constitution. When 37 percent of charter schools nationally perform worse than "virtual twin" public schools, that's a lot of young lives being given over to experiment. You don’t get a refund for not having learned anything that year, or three.

Contrast this with the fact that 56 percent of Washington voters upheld a prohibition regarding "investment of public monies of the University of Washington and Washington State University in private stocks and bonds." Presumably, it seemed too risky to gamble with education monies when it was clear that that was what was happening. Yet charter schools represent a bet not just with education monies, but a bet with the education of students too young to vote. In the competitive, private-enterprise model that charters adopt, the non-performing are supposed to fail. But they fail the students in them most. That’s perhaps not something graduates of Lakeside know about.


mirmac1 said…
Given the initiative's narrow margin of victory, I believe a strong statement could be made if a true coalition of groups file suit. There is widespread concern about the defects in this law, and we could all make arguments from different perspectives.
Anonymous said…
I concur with mirmac. Melissa and I have discussed several avenues that different challenges might take, because there are multiple constitutional grounds. We could tie this baby up in court for years, and yes, I believe that's exactly what we should do.

-- Ivan Weiss
mirmac1 said…
Bleech, another "balanced" article on the miracle of charters in Crosscut:

"Supporters call the results of Initiative 1240 a “clear victory,” though the latest tally shows it passing by a margin of 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent; similar, but diametrically opposed to the voting margin between gubernatorial candidates Rob McKenna, a charter school supporter, and Jay Inslee, who opposed the measure.

Opponents say they were dramatically outspent and so the closeness of the vote proves that many people took time to carefully consider what charter schools would mean for Washington, now the 42nd state in the U.S. to allow them to operate, after saying no to charters three times before. Supporters say they had to counteract a campaign rife with misinformation and that the initiative was carefully written based on lessons learned from the failed 2004 charter school ballot measure."
mirmac1 said…
Melissa, I'm glad you were quoted in the article. Others may not agree, but I see you as the cool-headed reasonable person in a watchdog. Let the rest of us insurgents raise holy heck. Banzai!
I will post the Crosscut article and I thank them for having balanced quotes. This was one very troubling aspect as the campaign went on. At first, I thought I was just being sensitive but I realized that not only was the Times quoting the Yes side more, so did most of the tv people. (One KING-5 piece was really unbalanced.)

OUR campaign was rifed with misinformation? I stand by every thing I said that is contained in I-1240 and plan on calling out every single thing as it happens.

If we were mistruths, Yes was half-truths and avoidance.
Anonymous said…
Please proceed with the lawsuits. I feel quite confident that the issue should be argued in court, reading the text that people have been raising. And, there's no reason at all to presume that a initiative would be either legal nor constitutional. Lots of them seem to be written in ways that almost guarantee their unconstitutionality.

Anonymous said…
Excellent overview of the constitutional issues here.

(still no on 1240)
Anonymous said…
Or, you can work toward a repeal, this time by telling the truth: The Charter Initiative was bought and paid for, democracy be-damned.

Instead of "Don't Be Charter Fooled" and such slogans, why not print signs that say "Don't Sell Your Schools To Wal Mart and Bill Gates.

With Windows 8 (Windows 95, 7th Edition) being a complete dud, and MS cleaning house right now, I don't think Gates has the luster, nor the "boy genius" reputation he once had, and certainly won't have much longer.

How many times will they re-package & re-sell Windows 95 to the public with a new coat of paint? Reminds me a lot of Ed Reform. It's "revolutionary" because they say so. WSDWG
Patrick said…
WSDWG, we're not even selling our schools, we're giving them away.
ballardmom said…
I encourage participants and readers of this blog to give charter schools a chance. I've read this blog off and on - and one thing always strikes me. It is incredibly negative. I see a lot of criticism and not a whole lot in terms of support or solutions. That only breeds division and not collaboration.
I am offended by the generalizations made about people who supported I-1240. To say that we are all swayed by big money and misinformation is to undermine the people you need to work with, in the community and in education, who also genuinely care about our kids. They just have a different idea of what it means to reform education. It reminds me of the reactions to other elections recently, where the 50% would rather leave the table than come to it. That type of finger pointing isn't going to achieve anything and insulting the people you will need to work with won't earn you any respect.
mirmac1 said…

I see this as no different than those (like me) who never believed in Reagan's "trickle-down" economics. This proved to be yet another scheme to concentrate wealth among the few. Yeah, I get negative about crap like that. And I would never collaborate with them to foster a deficient, hurtful system of econ/education just because at the moment they have "hand".
Anonymous said…

charter schools are all over the country; learning outcomes (as measured by standardized tests, the only measure they have) are usually the same or worse and the changeover has opened up education to huge corruption.

not to mention that the whole thing is a scheme to privatize education and turn it into a global business.

i'm not interested in sending local education tax dollars to a corporation chartered in the bahamas, or giving up ownership of real estate paid for with local taxes to same.

do some research; the prospects are frightening. no compromise, no chances, for the people pushing this.
Josh Hayes said…
I for one welcome out new ant overlords.
Jan said…
ballardmom: your general point (about being positive, working together with people, not being obstructionist, etc.) are good ones.


But I firmly believe, based on having read the initiative that was passed, and having watched the pro-charter groups attempt last year to hold the budget hostage over a "pilot charter" program, that this bill (maybe not charters as a concept, or some other bill, but THIS bill) was written by people who do not care at all about public education. At every POSSIBLE point, they have favored "windowdressing" over substance, private unaccountable decisionmaking over community involvement and control, and privatization of public assets over concern for the public fisc. At absolutely no point whatsoever does the legislation evidence any concern whatsoever about making charters work WITH other public schools.

I have no problem if you like charters. Many people are attracted to the idea of school-based government and less centralized control. But I have a HUGE problem with a bill that is blatantly about moving public assets into private hands for no (or less than fair market) consideration, and destroying the ability of a school district to plan for capacity management and capital improvements.

If we are going to have charter schools, then I want state laws that are the best in the nation. Laws that provide for accountability for charter operators BEFORE they take all the money and shut down the schools. Rules that give them flexibility to figure out how accountability works as part of their application -- but then hold them to it. Rules that ensure that the "new tool in the box" isn't on a shelf so high that no SPED kids or ELL kids can ever reach it.

If people don't want negativity, then they shouldn't write such flawed legislation (and then misrepresent it to voters with millions of out-of-state dollars).
dan dempsey said…
So are the US Public Schools really that BAD???

Consider this:
The amazing truth about PISA scores: USA beats Western Europe, ties with Asia.

What I have learned recently and want to share with you is that once we correct (even crudely) for demography in the 2009 PISA scores, American students outperform Western Europe by significant margins and tie with Asian students. Jump to the graphs if you don't want to read my boring set-up and methodology.

The main theme in my blog is that we shouldn’t confuse policy with culture, and with demographic factors.

For instance, education scholars have known for decades that the home environment of the kids and the education levels of the parents are very important for student outcomes. We also know that immigrant kids have a more difficult time at school, in part because they don’t know the language.
dan dempsey said…
The author of the above study makes the point that the "supposed poor quality of public schools" is bering promoted by both the political left and the political right.

The left wants more money dumped into public schools and see "Poor results" as a rationale for doing so.

The right want public schools privatized and sees "poor results" as a rationale for doing so.

Note the I-1240 YES rationale for pushed voting YES.


Does money result in improvement?

NY and WY had big spending increases following legal victories similar to the WA "NEWS" lawsuit to increase funding in public schools ..... This study says not much bang for the buck on test score improvement in NY and WY.
"I see a lot of criticism and not a whole lot in terms of support or solutions."

Ballard Mom, you say that you read off and on and that's probably how you do miss the support and solutions. We - Charlie and myself - have offered a lot of them and we have the smartest readers bar none who also offer them.

Okay so why DID you vote for 1240? Obviously you don't feel the election was bought and you understand the initiative.

Could you explain:

- why you are okay with a charter taking over any school, failing or not, with say fewer than 20 people signing a petition?

- what persuades you that charters are a good use of scarce education dollars?

- why it's okay that districts should sell school property for less than it is worth to a private entity?

I'll be interested in your answers.
NSeattleParent said…
Answer to your 3 questions, from someone who sees themselves agreeing partly with BallardMom and others: I don't see these issues/challenges/ills as unique to charter schools - in fact, I see these exact same issues imbedded deep in SPS, but magnified.

"Could you explain:
- why you are okay with a charter taking over any school, failing or not, with say fewer than 20 people signing a petition?"

"Take Over" is relative- Doesn't the school board, a small group of mainly elite, highly political, upperclass folks, already do this, with much fewer than 20 people? Or/And: the admin of SPS? Even certain elementary schools are subject to this where there's a small yet strong PTA core that ride roughshod over the rest of the school community (BT,DT). I don't see this as unique to charter schools. Some of those rabid PTA members saw themselves as proactive heroes in a sea of lazy do-nothings. I suppose some of the charter schoolers may, too.

"- what persuades you that charters are a good use of scarce education dollars?"
In a district where we've blown $100s of thousands on bad milk contracts, where we have board members suspected of textbook-publisher kickbacks, where we pay millions in Testing software/hardware/staff and yet don't apply the results to academic planning or individual students, where we get embroiled in TFA b.s., where abuse is tolerated and mismanagement is coddled (Lowell, I'm looking at you), where gifted and special ed kids suffer substandard status, where, in addition to bad policy and decisions, we're also floating some $175,000 in bad school lunch debt, and where we literally threw millions away in the Potter small biz dept scandal-- I'd argue it'd be fair to say the safest bet to many observers would be to get those scarce education dollars OUT of SPS's hands. it's not a case of a few bad eggs. The institution itself is reeking of sulphur now.

"- why it's okay that districts should sell school property for less than it is worth to a private entity?"

You're kidding right? SPS makes a habit of selling school property for less than market value ALL THE TIME: Surely you can't have forgotten Queen Anne high school already? MLK elementary and the church that bought it below market? The sale of the Summit School, where 1.2 million was left on the table? The property Lakeside bought? The 4th N admin property? The 4th south property bought by costco? The giveaways promised when the colman school was being sold? And further back, check out Bell Town school, Cascade, and Denny school, just to scratch the very surface of SPS's history of real estate flubs.
Again, considering the SPS track record, don't you think it's no wonder that people voted for a new option, a third party, as it were, to try SOMETHING that might -even if only 17% of the time- be better than the status quo?

Likewise, I'll be interested in your answers.
Charlie Mas said…
Thank you, NSeattleParent, for your questions.

You are, of course, completely correct. The difference, I would say, is that in our public schools these situations are not part of the design, are temporary, and are not admired. We oppose them in our public schools when we encounter them. In the charter schools, however, these situations are built into the design, they are permanent, and they are regarded positively.

Neither Mel nor I are regarded as school district supporters. On the contrary - we are regarded as critics. I find it odd to be cast an advocate of the status quo. We are, however, great supporters of public school.

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