… A charter school is a public school that is open to all students but operates independently of district management and administrative rules. The rest of the nation doesn’t share this state’s aversion to the concept; about 5,600 charter schools operate in 41 states and the District of Columbia.
Initiative 1240 is a targeted proposal, really more of a pilot program, that draws up tight guidelines and accountability measures for a maximum of eight schools a year to a total of 40 — there are 2,345 schools in Washington state — over the next five years. The schools could increase instructional hours, they must meet state academic standards, and they would have flexibility in scheduling, curricula, budgets and staffing. They would be required to employ certificated staff, and collective bargaining requirements would apply.
We like the idea, and we also like that its limited nature addresses the reticence of state voters to embrace this approach. The Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board endorses Initiative 1240. …
In addition to the limits on numbers of schools, the proposal sets limits on who could set them up, either school district boards or nonprofit organizations. There would be no religious charter schools. A new state agency consisting of nine members, appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, would oversee the charters. School districts could set up the charters, or nonprofits could apply to the statewide commission or local school board.
The proposal sets up a potential term limit, as the charter agreement would be a five-year contract between the authorizing entity and the charter school board; the contract would be renewable, and underperforming schools could risk not winning reauthorization. School boards could convert a current school to a charter school or set up a new school, and the schools would receive allocation of state funding based on their student enrollments.
Charters won’t fix all our schools’ problems. But reflexively rejecting the charters puts us in a state of denial that our schools have problems that need fixing. The charters, with proper oversight, can be a tool that will help repair our state’s schools; Initiative 1240 will provide that tool.