It's time: Fund our schools
It's time: Fund our schools! Scene at a Lake Washington Education Association rally at Kirkland's Marina Park (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

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.


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

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