Teachers United Endorses Initiative 1240, the Washington Public Charter Schools InitiativeTeachers Group Supports Measure as Effective Approach to Helping Struggling Students

For Immediate Release | September 21, 2012

SEATTLE – Teachers United, a young and growing statewide organization of teachers dedicated to improving public education, announced today that it has endorsed Initiative 1240, a measure that will authorize a limited number of public charter schools in Washington State. Teachers United also released a policy position paper summarizing the work and thoughts of their teachers (see attached policy position paper).

In making the announcement, Teachers United executive director Christopher Eide said, “There are tens of thousands of great teachers in this state, and hundreds of thousands of successful students, but with some 14,000 students dropping out of our schools each year, we all have to recognize that traditional public schools simply aren’t working for all students. Authorizing public charter schools will give us another important tool for meeting the needs of these struggling students.”

With Initiative 1240 on the ballot in Washington this fall, the discussion around whether students would benefit from allowing charter schools to operate is taking place statewide. In order to better understand the legislation and the issues surrounding charter schools, a group of Teachers United teachers assembled as a policy team to conduct research and make recommendations both on how schools should adapt to meet the needs of all students and whether I-1240 should be supported.

Beginning in June, this group of teachers dissected the initiative, read eight leading research papers on charter schools and 20 editorial pieces representing various sides of the debate. They interviewed several of the authors of I-1240 as well as national charter school experts from the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington-Bothell. Members of this policy team were also part of a group of 13 teachers from Seattle, Tacoma and Bellingham who visited five charter schools and hosted a panel of local education leaders in New Orleans in August.

“We should be for schools that articulate specific, clear visions and can be held accountable for those visions,” said Martin Piccoli, Seattle teacher and member of the policy team. The members of the team emphasized that while traditional methods of public schooling work for many students, individual schools should be able to adapt to the needs of their student population and should be expected to deliver on high expectations set for their students. Public charter schools would have the ability to attract and retain staff members who are aligned with the vision of the school, and let go of those who aren’t. When polled, Teachers United teachers overwhelmingly (95%) believe these concepts are best for students, and most (70%) believe that practice is not currently possible in every school in Washington right now.

Teachers United teachers expect that the 40 schools created under this legislation will exist to primarily serve or at least directly benefit struggling and “at-risk” populations of students; would be transparent with information regarding attrition rates, support for students with special needs, graduation rates, teacher turnover, salaries, and sources of funding; and would fairly recruit students (prioritizing aforementioned populations).

Teachers United is a growing, teacher-led statewide organization of nearly 250 educators united by the belief that all students should have an excellent education and that teachers should have a significant voice in education policy decisions. Many Teachers United teachers are award-winning, National Board Certified, and/or are leaders in the teachers union. For more information, please visit www.teachersunitedwa.org.