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September 4, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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Initiative 1240 draws questions, criticism

Setting the record straight on I-1240

The Aug. 29 article on Initiative 1240, the Washington public charter-schools initiative on the November statewide ballot, contained several false claims made by opponents of the measure. I-1240 will allow up to 40 public charter schools to be authorized in Washington over five years.

Here are the facts: First, charter schools are public schools, they provide another enrollment option within the public-school system (already available to parents in 41 other states), free and open to all students, with funding based on student enrollment just like traditional public schools.

Second, under I-1240, charter schools will be overseen by either a local school board or a state commission whose members are required to have strong education experience. Under Section 208 (3) of I-1240, members “shall collectively possess strong experience and expertise,” in “public school leadership, assessment, curriculum, and instruction; and public education law.”

Third, there is no parent or teacher “trigger” in I-1240. Under I-1240, it’s possible for a traditional public school to convert to a charter school only if the school meets rigorous application requirements, and demonstrates community need and parent and community support. One additional requirement before that conversion could happen is that either a majority of the parents or a majority of the teachers would have to sign a petition supporting the conversion. However, this is an additional requirement to demonstrate support for the school — a petition alone would mean nothing.

Finally, I-1240 is very clear that public charter schools may only be operated by qualified nonprofit organizations. Further, they may only contract for services with for-profit groups to the same extent as existing public schools may already do so under current law.

— Jana Carlisle, Ed.D., Seattle

Why do they need our money?

Bill Gates and other well-heeled philanthro-capitalists think they have a better way of providing education than the current public-school system. Maybe they’re right, but why do they need our money for charter schools to try out their ideas?

For a fraction of the money the Gates Foundation grants each year, they could fund their own independent schools, hire teachers, avoid unions, try out their evaluation schemes, offer preferred, tuition-free admission to students from “failing” public schools and be free of the cumbersome regulations that they believe hold back public schools. If their goal really is to innovate and improve education, why are they waiting for our permission and money to do it?

— Sherri Nichols, Redmond

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