OLYMPIA, Washington (July 26, 2012)—The WASA Board of Directors recently took action to oppose Initiative 1240, which would allow public schools to become independently run using public taxpayer funds. WASA supports options that meet the unique needs of local school districts and believes schools should be freed from burdensome regulations and given flexibility to innovate; however, I-1240 shows a serious lack of accountability and structure.
Charter schools put power into the wrong hands. Existing public schools can be “converted” to a charter school by a majority vote (signed petition of teachers or parents) without proper professional assessment, analysis, or investigation. Under this initiative, schools are defenseless against those holding the unverified opinion that a particular public school is ineffective.
Other serious flaws of I-1240 include:
· A newly created charter school commission must have a diverse membership; however, each member must hold a “demonstrated commitment to charter schooling,” with only one member of the commission being a public school parent. In creating charters, the charter school commission or approved local school boards may delegate responsibilities to employees or contractors and are excused from legal liability.
· If a charter applicant is denied by the charter school commission or an approved local school board, it can “shop the proposal around” and be approved by another authorizer, which allows sub-par or poorly planned charter school applications to be accepted. No standard or universal contract exists between charters schools and their authorizer—each school contract establishes its own policy and standards.
· Although proponents claim I-1240 is a “modest” proposal, with a limit of 40 charter schools over the next five years, any current school that converts to a charter school is not counted as part of the cap.
· Converted charter schools can remain in their existing facility, but cannot be charged rent by the school district. Further, the district is responsible for repairs and upgrades. A school district cannot stop a conversion, yet it must still pay facilities costs.
· A district must allocate public-approved levy moneys to converted charter schools, although charter school boards cannot request levy or bond moneys from the public.
WASA President and Pullman School District Superintendent Paul Sturm reported:
Establishing charter schools will not fix the issues facing public education. Although this particular initiative carries the positives of innovation, flexibility, and autonomy needed for K–12 education, the real issue and priority is ample funding for our current school system. The WASA Board of Directors is seriously concerned that I-1240 discards the fundamentals of public school responsibility and replaces those fundamentals with privatization of the public’s money. We support innovative schools and options designed for the betterment of every school district and community, but we do not support this initiative.
To view the ballot measure summary and complete text for I-1240, visit http://sos.wa.gov/elections/initiatives/Initiatives.aspx?y=2012&t=p and scroll down to Initiative 1240 – Tania de Sa Campos – Public Charter Schools.
The Washington Association of School Administrators is a statewide professional association representing nearly 1,100 members including superintendents, central office administrators, and building principals.
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