When it comes to educating our children, most Washington parents agree that more options are a good thing. That’s why it’s surprising that Washington is not already one of the 41 states that allows parents to choose whether our children can attend a public charter school. It’s especially odd given the high premium our state puts on education and innovation.
Voting “yes” on I-1240 will finally allow Washington parents and students this option. Research has shown that in states with strong public charter school laws, like I-1240, charter schools have achieved outstanding results in helping students succeed, especially those who are at-risk or struggling in traditional school settings.
A “Yes” vote on I-1240 will allow up to 40 public charter schools to be authorized in Washington over the next five years. These schools will be subject to strict oversight and public accountability, overseen by a local school board or a newly created charter school commission. Public charter schools authorized under 1240 will be subject to annual performance reviews and an evaluation at the end of five years to determine whether additional public charter schools should be allowed. Charter schools are public schools, plain and simple. The key difference is that public charter schools are independently managed and operated by approved nonprofit organizations and are free from certain regulations so they have more flexibility in making decisions about curriculum, budgets, and the hiring and firing of teachers and staff. This flexibility is what allows these public schools to create the best learning environment to meet the needs of individual students.
Public charter schools are free and open to all students — just like traditional public schools. They also receive funding based on student enrollment — just like traditional public schools. Just like under current state law, the money follows the kids and stays within the public school system.
In addition, charter schools must meet the same academic standards as traditional public schools, and their teachers must meet the same certification requirements as teachers in other public schools.
I-1240 was written to include strict accountability standards and high performance requirements and is based on successes in other states with strong public charter school laws. Research from Stanford University and elsewhere shows that the states with the best laws are getting the best results. And 1240 brings the best of what has worked in other states to Washington.
I-1240 also has strong language regarding parent and local community involvement. Under I-1240, local school boards can choose to become charter school authorizers. And, I-1240 requires parent representation on the newly created state charter school commission – and requires that public charter schools demonstrate both community need as well as parent and community support before a charter school can be approved.
As a parent, I want more options and more opportunities for local parent involvement in my child’s education, and I-1240 offers this.
Like other states, Washington has had difficulty in helping our struggling students succeed in school. While our traditional public schools work well for many students, there are still thousands of students in Washington who drop out of school every year. Still others who do graduate are not prepared enough to be successful in the workforce or in college.
A yes vote on 1240 will provide another option within our public schools to help more students succeed. As parents, that is something we can all agree is a good thing.
That’s why a broad coalition of parents, teachers, educators, community leaders, businesses and organizations across Washington have joined together to urge a yes vote on 1240. Please look into the facts about public charter schools and Initiative 1240 by visiting www.YESon1240.com.
And, I hope you will join with me and other parents across our state in voting yes on 1240 this November.
Mary Lou Evans is a public school parent, past President of the Mill Creek Elementary PTA, and currently serves on the audit committee of both Jackson High School PTSA and Mill Creek Elementary PTA. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Silver Lake Soccer Club and lives in Mill Creek with her husband and three children.