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October 23, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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The Times recommends I-1240, charter schools in Washington state

Work together for public schools

Katie Baird goes along with the claim that charter schools would not affect fundingof public schools. [“Creating high-performing schools,” Opinion, Oct. 22]. The claim is false: Students attending charters would leave their home districts to pay the upkeep costs of the buildings and shared costs of running the district and the $3 million cost to set up a supervisory system could be spent on public schools.

Beyond that is accountability to the public. The Washington State PTA hastended to favor charters but opposes I-1240 because of lack of accountability to the voters. Charters are presented as good for minority communities, but the NAACP and El Centro de la Raza both oppose them, as does the League of Women Voters. "Available players," that is, schools from which we can learn, can and do exist within our public school system.

Finland has raised the bar for its students by concentrating on equity. In order to achieve equity of opportunity we need to increase support of not just K-12, but preschool and university-level education. 97 percent of the pro-charter campaign is supported by 19 donors, many out of state. Think of what we could do if we all worked together for our public schools.

— Mary Wallon, Seattle

Focus on innovation

Will someone please tell me why charter schools are still being pushed? Initiative 1240 is the fourth attempt in Washington and its proponents agree there is no evidence that charter schools outperform traditional public schools.

There are plenty of examples of successful innovation happening in our public schools, but charter schools seem to get all the attention. Thornton Creek Elementary in North Seattle is one great example. This school uses a highly successful learning model called "Expeditionary Learning" and it usually has students waiting to get in. This model was originally developed by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and put into use in 1993. In 2007, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation contributed over $11 million to this effort.

As of 2010, 165 schools in 29 states and D.C. were using this model, including some charter schools. In 2009, President Obama cited it as an “example of how all our schools should be.”

So please, tell me why we are not focusing all our efforts and resources on innovations like this within our existing public schools and flatly rejecting charter schools?

— Giles Bohannon, Bellevue

Need to address societal issues first

Katie Baird's baseball analogy turns out to be less than apt if we extend it.

Let's say the team manager hires three strong players, but he has to let three weaker players go in order to keep the roster the same size. Under Initiative 1240, adding, say, three charter schools to a school district doesn't mean that three regular public schools go away. The idea is that families can choose one or the other, assuming they can get their preferred school to take their child.

True, the amount per student doesn't change, but the regular schools do lose money because the total amount for all students ends up being spread around to the regular schools,charters and the special oversight needed for charters. I don't see how diluting scarce resources will improve the overall performance of any of our schools, charter or conventional.

The real problems with our public schools stem from societal issues like poverty, racism, broken homes, literacy and more. As a suburban child of the 1950s, I went to very fine schools. I never dreamed of the kind of challenges so many of our children face nowadays. Spreading around existing money will make it even harder for any schools, including charters, to begin to address these needs.

— Judy DeLaittre, Seattle

Education is a recession-proof industry

Charter schools are another way of selling off our commons and privatizing the ownership of our public schools. Education is a recession-proof industry and when corporations in this country or other countries want to invest their money — what better place than taxpayer-funded “nonprofits” in the U. S.?

There are corporations that run groups of charter schools in the U.S. now. Check out Mosaica. Keep tax dollars and control of public education in our public schools.

— Lynne Storrar, Sammamish

Private money aids fund charter schools

Katie Baird claims that I-1240 is “designed to maximize the chance of creating high-performing charter schools.” But her claim is mostly a matter of faith. She overlooks the one factor that most clearly makes charters succeed — huge private donations.

The research team led by Gary Miron of Western Michigan U. on March, 2011, showed that one successful charter school chain, KIPP, received an extra $5,760 per pupil per year from private foundation money.

If charter schools are the answer to the achievement problems of our state's 1 million K-12 students, where will these extra billions of dollars every year come from?

— Charles Bagley, Seattle

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