As a Bellingham Public School District special education teacher and aide, I understand firsthand the importance of choosing and receiving the customized learning experiences that students with special needs deserve.
Across our country, research has shown that public charter schools in other states do a better job than traditional public schools in helping struggling students stay in school and succeed.
Owing to this record of success, I am voting yes on Initiative 1240 this November to bring charter schools to our state.
I-1240 allows up to 40 public charter schools in Washington over the next five years. A yes vote on 1240 gives more public school options to parents and students here in Washington.
Charter schools are public schools. They are independently managed by approved non-profits, and are free and open to all students. Charter schools are subject to the same academic standards as traditional public schools, and teachers must be certified in the same manner as other public school teachers.
The key difference between traditional public schools and public charters schools is that charter schools have more flexibility in establishing curriculum, budgets, scheduling,and staffing. This fluidity affords the opportunity for public charter schools to better meet the individual needs of students and to create customized learning environments that help all students to succeed. As I have witnessed in many of my students, the adaptability of public charter schools is integral to the academic success of those who struggle within a traditional public school setting and those with special needs.
Public charter schools receive funding based on student enrollment, just like traditional public schools. No money leaves our public school system and I-1240 does not change the current law regarding student funding. I-1240 will simply allow for public charter schools as another enrollment option for parents and students within the public school system – an option that is currently available in 41 other states.
The oversight for public charter schools is provided from either a local school board or a state commission, and includes strict accountability requirements. I-1240 also requires annual performance reviews and an evaluation after five years before additional charter schools could be allowed.
While traditional public schools work well for many students, there are still thousands of students in Washington who drop out of school every year, and still others who graduate unprepared for success in the workforce or in college.
For this reason, I am glad to see that I-1240 requires that a priority be given to public charter schools serving students who are struggling in traditional schools. It also requires public charter schools to have a plan to identify and successfully serve students with special education needs.
Public charter schools are also enormously popular among parents with children attending them in other states. Every state surrounding Washington, and every state that Washington competes with economically, has public charter schools. It is time for Washington to step up and allow our parents and students this important educational opportunity.
The potential to help struggling and special needs students has earned I-1240 a broad range of support from parents, teachers, educators, community leaders, businesses and organizations throughout Washington state.
I urge you to learn more about public charter schools and Initiative 1240 by visiting YESon1240.com.
Please join other Washington state teachers, parents, citizens and me in voting yes on 1240 this November.
Jenni Veitch-Olson is a special education teacher serving in the Bellingham public school district.