Senate Republicans have already passed a bill (SB 6194) that would secure a future for voter-approved public charter schools in our state. The bill became necessary after the state Supreme Court struck down charter schools as unconstitutional in a decision widely perceived as highly political. Now, the future of public charter schools rests with the Democrat-controlled state House.
Last week, state Representatives Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle) and Chad Magendanz (R-Issaquah) introduced a bill (HB 2367) in hopes of leading the charge to save public charter schools. Like it’s companion bill passed in the state Senate, HB 2367 would aim to change certain aspects of the charter school law that the court deemed unconstitutional. Among other reforms, the bill would create “a system of charter schools separate from the common school system.” Under the separate system, public charter would receive “only state and federal funding, and no local levy funding.”
House Democrats will have to decide if they will continue supporting the special interest agenda pushed by the Washington Education Association (WEA) at a time when report and report reveals the benefits of charter schools, especially for underprivileged children. The Washington Policy Center points out,
“Early results show charter schools are delivering impressive gains in student learning. For example, at Rainier Prep Charter school, students are on track to make two years’ progress in reading in one year.”
The successes of charter schools do not stop with quality of education improvements. Charter schools are providing that improved education is possible with less money when they are “allowed to operate independently of many of the unnecessary bureaucratic restrictions.” According to one report, “Charter schools spend 96 cents of every school dollar right in the school building, as compared to the 60 cents of every dollar reaching school classrooms in other schools.”
Of course, these improvements are exactly why public charter schools threaten special interests-driven, bureaucracy-favoring Democrats.
While some Democrats (notably, Rep. Pettigrew) have joined Republicans in supporting charter schools, an alarming amount have condemned them. Revealing Democrat’s hostility, state Rep. Gerry Pollet went as far as to say he used the opportunity of charter school students asking lawmakers to save their schools to teach them about their “privilege” — it didn’t seem to occur to him that most of the children came from underprivileged communities.
As for our green governor, he remains silent on the issue. Jay Inslee refuses to take a public stance on charter schools, though he opposed them in the past. Presumably, Inslee’s lack of a backbone comes from his hesitancy over upsetting an electorate that supports public charter schools and his desire to continue pleasing the WEA in order to maintain campaign support.
As Shift has pointed out, it is due to the prospect of losing money and power that the WEA has done everything in its power to destroy public charter schools. And, it’s due to the prospect of losing money and power offered by the supporting the WEA that Democrat lawmakers remain either silent or directly oppose public charter schools.
Unfortunately, if House Democrats’ latest attack on public charter schools is any indication, the Rep. Pettigrew will have a difficult time coalescing enough support among his colleagues to pass the bill. House Democrat leaders’ proposed supplemental budget not only cuts funding for K-12 education, it also proposes cutting funds for the Washington State Charter School Commission from $1.5 million to $926,000 (a 38% reduction).
Democrats’ latest hit on charter school has some experts worried about what it might hint at for the future of public charter schools. The Washington Policy Center explains,
“Others say the House Democrats’ budget is a cause for worry, because the budget assumes the passage of other bills, known in the jargon as ‘Necessary to Implement the Budget,’ that indicate what state programs should receive full funding. So the House Democratic budget could have included full funding for the Charter School Commission if the sponsors had assumed passage of SB 6194/HB 2367, the bills to save charter schools. SB 6194 has already passed the state Senate, and it is now being discussed in the House of Representatives.”
With cuts to K-12 educations and the future of voter-approved charter schools in the balance, Democrats have (once again) proved that their priorities have nothing to do with improving education for our children. Rather, it’s all about their special interests agenda.