Seattle Times: "Voters Were Stupid When They Rejected Charter Schools"


No, no, they're right: We do know a lot more now about charter schools -- namely, that they aren't any better than non-charter schools unless you throw truly huge amounts of money at them. The only thing they're good for is transferring money from public schools to the corporations that run the charter schools, which is, of course, why the Times likes them.

When it comes to education policy, as with so many other matters, if the Times is for it, you should be against it, and vice versa.
Why the bloody hell are you pretending to be surprised, Goldy? The will of the people is worth a snake's fart only when the people agree with the Ruling Power.
What Catherwood said. Plus, the Times completely missed the point of the court decision, which was that WA is not adequately funding schools. Period. It's not because of greedy, fat-cat teachers and their selfish will to protect collectively bargained agreements and local decision making. It's not because we need to funnel money off to dubiously effective charter schools. The legislature has an obligation to fund public education and they have not met that obligation.
From the article: "Nationally, about 20 percent of charter schools have been found to do a better job of educating students than public schools."

Meaning that 80% of charter schools do as well as or worse than public schools at educating students. Admitted, right there, in their own bloody editorial! And they think charter schools are a wise use of extremely limited public education monies?
Sounds reasonable Goldy. Now explain why the will of the people isn't good enough when it comes to 1053, 1098, and liquor sales at Costco. Just in the interest of consistency of course.
@ 5, Goldy's take there is that big campaign money makes people vote stupidly.
Okay guys, I'm reeeeally going to try not to waste too much time on this comment and to stay on Level 2 of Professor Internet's helpful guide to being mad about something on the internet (…), but here goes:

I really don't know anything about Seattle politics, and it's certainly the people's right to reject charter schools. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to do, especially given the radical variation of charter school policies around the U.S., and that's not what irritates me about your post. What does irritate me is that it's completely disingenuous to paint charter schools as a tool of education reform with the broadest, most intellectually facile brush imaginable and say that there is only a "naive, simplistic argument" to be made in favor of having charter schools exist as an alternative public school type alongside traditional public school districts.

Depending on what state you're in, it's true that charter schools vary wildly in quality. To say a school is a charter school is to say nothing of its quality; it is to speak to its governance and funding status. Texas (where I live) has mostly crappy charter schools with a handful of really exceptional ones (KIPP, YES Prep, Harmony, IDEA), most of which (thanks to the laws in Texas) actually use *less* money per pupil than the average traditional public school.

On the other hand, there are some places where the introduction of charter schooling has radically transformed the educational opportunities for low-income students for the better. See: New Orleans (…), Harlem (I don't really want to waste time finding a good link to support this right now, but suffice it to say that charter schools have dramatically and systemically improved educational opportunities in Harlem for kids), and Albany (which I also can't find data on in three seconds). It's simply wrong to say that charter schools always and everywhere are damaging to the overall public education system in a given locale.

No one who is taken seriously would ever say that charter schools, as a tool of education reform, are a "panacea" to a struggling system. In most places, charter schools serve only a tiny percentage of students and certainly get a far disproportionate degree of attention considering where most of the kids are. Systemically speaking, charter schools are meant to accomplish a few things: to be a crucible for effective innovative practices that can be brought to scale in traditional districts (a serious argument can be had about whether the movement has accomplished this) and to provide (in my opinion) much-needed competition in a (yes) market where there are seriously broken systems of incentives for improvement (this has worked fascinatingly well in some areas and dismally badly in others). This only works well if there are higher standards for charters than traditional public schools and if charters are hard to procure and easy to close (case in point NYC) - it doesn't work so well in Texas because they have the same standards as other schools, are easy to open, and hard to close.

And that's all I'll say on the matter. Thanks, Professor Internet!
I can't help but find "The will of the people" a frustratingly obnoxious meme in any context. It readily dismisses any dissenting body while establishing the wishes of the majority as somehow objectively true; it's really no more substantiative than saying "Well, everybody who matters agrees with me, so...." and yet it is regularly trotted out by the media and politicians as if it actually carries more weight. It implies that the "will" of the opposing party is meaningless- they're not people, after all!- and that a simplistic "majority rules" decision making process is inherently pure and never produces harmful or counterproductive results. It is a phrase as misleading as it is intellectually lazy.
let's just stop the charade & privatize everything. that's where we're headed as a country... regardless of whether the voting public wants it or not... regardless of whether it is a good idea or not. the people in this country who can make money off of vast privatization have decided that we are going to privatize everything. this isn't a democracy. the decision has been made. let's end the charade of gradual implementation & just be done w/ the farce that our opinions matter.
Hey look! A dead horse. Let's flog it & see if it moves.
@7, let's examine your arguments.

actually use *less* money per pupil than the average traditional public school.

Yes, that's because (1) they don't hire union teachers or other staff and (2) they do everything they can to weed out the high-need (read: high cost) Special Ed and ELL students. It costs less when you can cherry-pick students.

Harlem Children's Zone that you cite is a good charter. They are also heavily funded privately to the tune of $23k per student. That is neither realistic nor scalable. Good for those kids but it's not going to happen elsewhere.

" be a crucible for effective innovative practices that can be brought to scale in traditional districts.."

Yes, and the two fathers of charters, Budd and Shanker, abandoned the idea in later years precisely because the innovation that they hoped would come from charters, didn't. And most charters, if you walk in, look a lot like traditional schools.

This is a terrible charter bill. One, only non-profits can start a charter BUT they can then farm the management out to a FOR-PROFIT company. In other words, people will make money off of public schools.

Two, if a School Board authorizes a charter, that charter will share in all the levy dollars - operational or facilities (even if the district doesn't own the building the charter is in).

Three, it has its own built-in parent trigger. Google that term and see what a mess it is in California with parents being tricked/misled into signing petitions to take over existing schools (which this bill would allow).

The Supreme Court just ruled that the Legislature is not properly funding schools. Meaning the Legislature is not doing its job under the Constitution. And yet, the Legislature now wants to bring on-line MORE underfunded schools?

The voters of Washington State are not stupid. We were asked three times about this issue in the last decade. Enough.
@5... No, I don't argue "the will of the people" as a defense of policy. That's the difference between me and them.

Personally, I think the whole initiative process is crap.
In Los Angeles, the district has been handing school campuses and students over to charter schools for nearly ten years. The effect is that nearly 20% of students are now enrolled in charters. This is slowly, but systematically destroying the teachers' union, which has declined in membership by more than 20% over the last decade (we used to have 35,000 members, down now to 27,000). In addition, the district has rolled out a "thin contract" that drastically curtails employees rights at "pilot schools", which mirror charters in many ways.

Each and every year, 5000 relatively young teachers are given pink slips in March and informed during the following summer whether or not they will have a job. About 3500 of those teachers are told that they will have a job come August, but the other 1500 are used by the district as bargaining chips to nip away at the contract. This last year, teachers elected to save 1000 teachers' positions by taking voluntary furlough days, but 500 teachers lost their jobs... and none of them were from charter schools.

Charter schools are supposed to educate all types of students, but through clever, and opaque selection processes they manage to acquire student bodies that do not reflect the 12% Special Ed and 35% English Language Development averages for LAUSD. If one actually looks into it, they average about 6% Special Ed and 25% ELD, with the Special Ed students being predominantly those with physical disabilities. YET, THE CHARTERS HAVE NOT DEMONSTRATED BETTER PERFORMANCE THAN THE REGULAR DISTRICT SHOOLS, on average! And, the district's office that is supposed to regulate charters does nothing! Not a single report has come out in the last five years.

In addition, charters have extremely high rates of teacher attrition, with young teachers cycling through every three or four years and then dropping out to go work at private schools (a 27 year old math teacher I know of had a baby six months ago. When she told her colleagues that she could no longer come in every day at 7:00 AM to provide the mandatory free tutoring, she was told to go find another job).

Starting wages have gone from $41,000 down to $35,000 over the last few years, and teachers within LAUSD have not had a cost of living adjustment for four years. Overall, what kind of long-term effect do you think this entire situation is going to have on LAUSD? Why would anyone in their right mind become a public school teacher in that climate?

Good luck, Seattle, if you go that route.
There is nothing that a charter school can do that a public school cannot do. There is no need for charters. They are a distraction. We are better off without them.

Goldy is right. All of the rationale for charters are naive, simplistic, or disingenuous.

Charter schools represent either an effort to privatize education by those who would profit from it or an effort to create an opportunity for some students by abandoning others.
@7 In 2007-08, KIPP received $18,491 in funding per student.
In 2008-09, Washington State spent $9,550 per student.
This from the guy who drives his kid to school on Mercer Island...
Charter advocates can selectively pick a good charter here and there but no state education system has improved after they introduced charters. Internet Professor cites New Orleans. After 10 years of charters schools, New Orlean schools are still below the state average, and the state of Lousiana is no higher than 45th out of the 50 states plus DC in reading, writing and math.

MN has had charters for 20 years, they were the first state to allow them, the opportunity gap has widened, "White students in MN have consistently been in the top 10-15% of the country on the NAEP. For the 7 year period from 2002 – 2009, the average 4th grade reading score for MN white students increased 1 point while Black students decreased 7 points and Hispanic students dropped 8 points. The result: MN’s white-Black gap widened by 8 points and the white-Hispanic gap increased by 9 points."…

Too many public schools do need to improve. Some reforms such as teacher/principal evaluation, the new open education resource library, the move toward standards based grading will change the only thing that will make a difference in a classroom, instruction. I also suspect that charters will more likely be issued to existing innovation schools, where parents are organized to ask for them, instead of creating more innovation.
I thought I posted this already. If I had the chance to put my kid into a school district like Mercer Island that had all that money, I'd do it. Wouldn't anybody? After all, the correlation between SES and school achievement has been clearly shown. Instead of blaming Goldy, get a second job, move to Mercer Island and take advantage of their money.