EDITORIAL: King County Journal, October 6, 2004

OUR VIEW: Charter Schools: Yes on R-55

We can increase opportunities for educating children in our state in November with the passage of R-55, which would allow establishment of charter schools. We recommend voters say “yes” to this common sense measure.

A strong bipartisan effort in the last legislative session approved the concept and Gov. Gary Locke signed the law. But opponents, led mostly by the Washington Education Association, raised concerns and forced a referendum on the issue.

Here are the facts:

  • Charter schools are public and funded by public education money. Funds follow students to whichever traditional public school or charter school they attend.
  • Charter schools cannot charge tuition.
  • R-55 would create up to 45 charter schools over six years. The majority would be reserved for those that focus on disadvantaged students, including those with limited English proficiency, special needs, and those who are economically disadvantaged or at risk of failing federal and state academic standards, including the WASL.
  • Charter schools have fewer bureaucratic mandates.
  • Charter schools employ only state-certified teachers, but they are not required to be WEA members or pay union dues, unlike teachers in other public schools.
  • Charter schools cannot pick their students nor can they discriminate on the basis of race, religion, income, disability, gender, or English proficiency.
  • Charter schools are managed by private non-profit organizations and overseen by public sponsors, usually local school districts.
  • Charter schools are accountable and must undergo regular performance audits.
  • Charter schools could be closed if their academic progress over a two-year period is inferior to that of similar students in the district.

We agree with Bill Gates, who said “Approving R-55 will give Washington state parents and teachers an important tool to help improve our public schools and help students who are falling through the cracks. I hope others who believe in helping underserved students and increasing student achievement will join me in supporting R-55.”

Count us among them.

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