Editor’s Note: This evening, the Washington State House of Representatives is expected to take up a bill that would restore public funding for private charter schools, in defiance of the Washington State Supreme Court’s clear ruling in League of Women Voters v. State of Washington. NPI is asking members of the House and Senate to oppose this legislation. We laid out our reasoning in the following message sent to lawmakers this morning, which we are releasing as an open letter.
We are troubled to hear that the House of Representative may vote on a bill to provide public money to private charter schools.
We write to urge you to vote NO on Senate Bill 6194 or any other bill that would provide taxpayer money to charter schools.
Approving such a bill would be the first step in the defunding of our public schools and would be a slap in the face to the one million children in our public schools who are still waiting for the Legislature to fulfill its constitutional duty — as well as its obligation under a court order — to fully fund public schools.
Across America, school districts are facing financial problems due to the existence of charter schools. Because money follows the student, public schools lose money when a student enrolls in a charter school.
In Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, and other cities, public school districts are being forced to slash budgets and undermine classroom supports because of the growth of charter schools. That hurts students who aren’t lucky enough to live near a charter school or win an enrollment lottery.
At a time when the Legislature is being held in contempt of court for failing to fund our public schools, it would be indefensible to create a whole new budget crisis for our public schools by passing a bill to resurrect funding for charter schools following the Supreme Court’s decision in League of Women Voters.
Meanwhile, the record of the charter schools themselves is mixed — at best.
In states like Ohio and Florida, charter schools have been a vehicle for fraud and waste of public tax dollars. Charter schools do not necessarily provide a better quality education. A recent Stanford CREDO study said that just under 40% of charters — two out of every five — are “significantly worse” than public schools and only 17% can be considered better.
By rejecting SB 6194 and other charter school bills, you are not closing down anyone’s school. You are not kicking any child out of a classroom. The wealthy interests and PACs that are bombarding you with calls and emails have more than enough money to keep those eight charter schools open indefinitely.
It is no more appropriate for the state to give taxpayers’ money to a charter school than it is to give it to a parochial school.
Your paramount duty is to fund our public schools. It is not appropriate to tell the one million children in our public schools that they must wait at least two more years for that duty to be met while at the same time suddenly coming up with new money for private charter schools.
Northwest Progressive Institute
Founder and executive director
Northwest Progressive Institute