Opinion

Washington State PTA will oppose I-1240 | Editorial

Washington State PTA will oppose I-1240, the initiative that would authorize charter public schools in Washington. Nationally, PTA has conditional support for these independent schools, and the state association has twice backed the concept in the past year. But ultimately the board decided this initiative didn’t meet its criteria for local oversight.

“This wasn’t a decision about the value of charter schools. This was a decision about whether this initiative met our criteria,” said Washington State PTA president Novella Fraser.  The decision was made during a board meeting preceding the association’s annual Leadership Conference, being held this weekend at Western Washington University.

Fostering strong community connections to schools is a core principle of PTA.  The board decided the ballot measure did not have sufficient protection in place to ensure maximum citizen involvement and oversight in local schools.

“Every school has to be well-governed and able to meet the kids’ needs,” said Fraser. “Successful schools work with families to make that happen. They respond when the community speaks up. If that’s not happening, the community needs a way to make a change.”

In the initiative, charter schools could be authorized by either a local school board or a new state charter school commission made up of nine appointees. Authorizers are in charge of reviewing the charter schools and ensuring they are meeting performance expectations. The potential of bypassing local oversight conflicted with a long-held position of the association: local tax dollars should be managed by locally elected school boards. Also troublesome for the association is that there are no requirements for parents to serve on charter school boards. Advocating for strong partnerships with shared decision making at every level – classroom, building, district, state and national – is a cornerstone of the association.

The vote came after extended discussion both at the August 10 board meeting and among PTA advocates in communities across the state.

At the same meeting, the board voted to actively oppose I-1185, the initiative that reinstates a two-thirds legislative majority to raise taxes and fees, including ending tax exemptions.

“Kids need support, now more than ever. Hungry and sick kids don’t learn,'” said Fraser. “Earlier this year the state supreme court ruled the Washington isn’t meeting its legal obligations to pay for education. The state must move $2 billion or more into K-12 while not hurting children’s services. And they may end up needing to supplement twice that amount. Now is not the time to tie legislators’ hands,” Fraser said.

At the same meeting, the WSPTA board of directors voted to advance more than a dozen proposals for delegates to consider placing on the association’s 2013 legislative platform. These include closing the opportunity gaps, advancing education reforms, and increasing revenue for schools and children’s programs.

ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE PTA: Washington State PTA is the largest volunteer organization in Washington, with more than 142,000 members.  Founded in 1905, the association speaks of behalf of children and provides training and support to more than 900 local PTAs across the state.

 

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