School director explains opposition to initiative
October 24, 2012 · 1:16 PM
It is election season. The time and chance we have to impact the direction of our government and our public schools. Wait. Initiative 1240 takes that away from us! And that is just one reason to vote no on I-1240.
I am not opposed to the concept of charter schools, but this law, at this time, is not the answer. Charters should be cost neutral to local districts and remain under the authority of locally-elected boards, giving taxpayers a real, and ongoing, say in the management of their school tax dollars.
I-1240 will divert money away from public schools – don’t be fooled. Under the complicated funding system, reductions in enrollment directly impact a district’s ability to staff special services like librarians, counselors, health aids, music, P.E. and art specialists. Read your Voter’s Pamphlet, pages 11-18, and find the multiple times the Office of the Attorney General indicates I-1240 “will result in an indeterminate, but not non-zero, fiscal impact to local public school districts.” I-1240 is a costly diversion of tax dollars away from already underfunded public schools to set up privately-run schools on public tax dollars – with no local voter accountability and no guarantee of success. It will cost over $3 million just to establish a new bureaucracy to manage the charter schools! This is simply not a good charter law.
The Supreme Court had it right last January when they ruled the state has been ignoring its constitutional mandate and underfunding basic education for decades. In fact, with the exception of 2012 (due to the ruling), public education has endured continued deep cuts year after year. Many excellent and innovative programs that were reaching all children, and making a difference, have been reduced or eliminated. I’ll give an example from our district and regarding only one program. Voters approved I-728 in 2002 to provide new funds to schools. The Enumclaw School District chose to use those funds to provide full-day kindergarten instruction free to all children, a program that was making a difference. After six years, the Legislature eliminated those funds. As a result, a very effective, critical program that was improving education for all children was cut. Shouldn’t this funding be re-instated first to all 295 districts for serving all students?
Some charter schools do show success and we need to explore how to make them work here, but they are not a silver bullet. The most extensive study done by Stanford found only 17 percent did better than public schools. As a member of the Washington State School Director Association board of directors I’ve witnessed your public schools across the state doing amazingly innovative things when given the resources and flexibility. Let’s first fully fund education for all children, run by locally-elected boards accountable to the local taxpayers, before we start experimenting with costly and unproven privately-run charter schools for a very few.
Vote “no” on I-1240. For more information, please check out http://peopleforourpublicschools.org/
Nancy Merrill is a 22-year member of the Enumclaw School District’s board of directors, serving District 1.