NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

NPI to legislators: Support Washington’s kids by funding our public schools — not charters

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. 

Dear Rep­re­sen­ta­tives:

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.

Sin­cere­ly,

Robert Cruick­shank
President
North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute
Andrew Vil­leneuve
Founder and exec­u­tive director
North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute

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