The Seattle Times recently published a story entitled, “State’s first charter school in disarray.” The story made the Times print edition’s front page earlier this week. The title—and parts of the story—gives off an impression that the charter school in question, First Place Scholars, is failing. However, as the Washington Policy Center (WPC) explains, the opposite is true.
As evidence of “disarray,” the Times points out that the first principal and five board members of First Place Scholars, a school that caters to underprivileged and homeless children, have left. The Times also lists the lack of a qualified special-education teacher and the need to finish conducting necessary background checks as part of “a dozen potential problems” facing the school.”
Yet, as WPC points out, the school has “selected a new chair, respected former Democratic state legislator Dawn Mason, and hired a new principal, a former superintendent from Marysville, Linda Whitehead.” In turn, the school’s new principal is in the process of “hiring new staff, particularly a special education teacher and two more full-time classroom aides, once background checks are completed.” Additionally, the new principal is “submitting a plan this month to make sure the school complies with federal disability law.”
Far from “bad news,” WPC explains that the “rapid changes are good news for First Place students.” As a charter public school unbound by red tape created by unions, First Place is responding with solutions to the problems it faces “much faster than traditional public schools.” Alternatively, traditional public schools “languish for years with poor academics and low graduation rates while underserved students age out of their programs.”
First Place charter school serves low-income and homeless children, whose parents know that a good education is the key to escaping poverty and moving on to a better life.
The same cannot be said of many traditional public schools in Seattle. Principals at these schools do not benefit from the flexibility and rapid improvement afforded by the state charter school law. For example, strict union regulations bar principals from quickly dismissing and hiring teachers as needed to serve the needs of students. Tight seniority rules require that younger teachers are let go first, even when a different decision would be better for students. Parents at Seattle Garfield High School are learning first-hand how heartless the traditional system can be, where a popular teacher is being threatened with dismissal.
Hard data proves that “public schools fail children year after year.” Unfortunately, the failure is “considered business as usual by the system.” According to WPC, the recent press received by First Place may appear as bad coverage for charter schools but on closer inspection, it is a “good thing.” It highlights the fact that the “attention and flexibility afforded by the state charter school law means low-income and homeless students at First Place are quickly getting the educational help they need, something that cannot be said about too many of our public schools.”
Picture from Washington Policy Center.