The State Constitution and other reasons to oppose charter schools

On the topic of education, the Washington State Constitution is a highly progressive document. ARTICLE IX EDUCATION says:

SECTION 1 PREAMBLE. It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.

SECTION 2 PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM. 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.

(emphasis added)

On Jan 5 of this year the Supreme Court of Washington State ruled that  “the Legislature has failed to fulfill the state’s constitutional mandate to amply fund education. The case is McCleary v. State, No. 84362-7.” (See this Resolution for Continued Prohibition of Charter Schools in Washington State.)

Despite the constitutional requirements for a uniform and general public education system, Republicans and Road Kill Democrats are pushing hard for charter schools in Washington State. [I am soliciting expert opinion about the constitutional implications of the language quoted above.]

Having trashed the economy and bankrupted governments via reckless deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, corruption, privatization, and fraudulent, mismanaged wars, Republicans and their conservative Democratic allies now hope to destroy public education and the social safety net.

But a lot of research has shown that charter schools do no better than public schools on average. (See the resolution and links here.)

State Representative Marcie Maxwell provides this list of 21 reasons to say No to charter schools. (reproduced by permission of Rep. Maxwell)

1. Charters have NOT outperformed public schools – the majority of charter schools have performed equal to or poorer than public schools.

2. Charter schools too often increase segregation of minority students and students of poverty.

3. Charter school legislation has led on to voucher systems which are funding religious schools or anything that looks like a school – see Florida and Indiana.

4. Many charter schools in New York are run by unelected boards full of “hedge fund managers”.

5. Our neighborhood schools build strong communities that support the greater needs of families, schools, and businesses.

6. Washington State’s K-12 schools mobility factor is near 40%. In high poverty schools that mobility factor is too often 70-80% which means students and families at risk are moving their households frequently. Charters do not help students who are on the move – improving all public schools in our state that student may attend will help these students.

7. Academic improvement is happening in many schools and districts. Adults throughout the system are being held accountable and this is good for students. Renton is an excellent example, diverse ethnic and economic populations, achieving 93% extended graduation rates – and there are many others, Toppenish, etc.

8. Local governance should be by locally elected school boards responsible for vision, accountability, and governance for public education in their school districts. Charters are often governed by a group of unelected parents – yet all voters, parents or not, should have the right to elect school board directors who govern all public schools and public school dollars.

9. Education professionals know what works – and when the state lives up to its responsibility to fund basic education those education administrators and classroom professionals in collabortion with elected schools boards and communities are able to help all students succeed.

10. Public schools are not in the business of non-profit or for profit business ventures.

11. Public schools educate all children – special ed, gifted, poverty, typical, etc. Too many charters are not inclusive of real student populations.

12. Washington K-12 public schools must work for one million kids – not 10,000 kids.

13. Charter management companies don’t even agree on what works. Rocketship’s founder will tell you that KIPP doesn’t work, isn’t sustainable, and he wouldn’t send his kids there.

14. Public schools are what America is built upon – access and opportunity for all.

15. Washington state school districts and schools already have and are using many available opportunities for flexibility and waivers that allow and encourage innovations and choices that work for students and families.

16. Washington is one of fewer states that offers Running Start college opportunities to high school students.

17. As stated by charter operators, their charter framework does not often work well in rural areas and is “targeted” to urban areas.

18. This is not an issue about teachers unions and WEA…… Innovation schools and successful school programs are working right now in collaboration with local education associations – and for the right reasons, student achievement.

19. Charters draw funds away from public schools, from public schools levies and bonds, and from vital shared school district resources.

20. Unclear liability issues may arise in charter schools and transformational zones, and since school districts are likely seen as deeper pockets in potential lawsuits, districts would likely be targeted as part of those lawsuits.

21. The most at-risk students whose parents can’t or won’t step up to greater advocacy or involvement that some charters demand are left out or pushed out. Our public schools enroll and teach all students.

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