In our view | Charter schools: A modest, constructive idea

As she signed her final state budget earlier this month, Gov. Chris Gregoire delivered a sharp message to the two leading candidates to succeed her:

“There is simply not enough money in our current revenue stream to keep up with the cost of educating our young people so they can compete in the 21st century.”

…We agree that money alone won’t deliver a world-class education to all of Washington’s students. The fact that better than 1 in 4 students don’t graduate from high school on time isn’t just a funding issue. Innovation has to be part of the solution.

Yet Washington has long resisted bold efforts for change in education, whether pushed by business groups or bipartisan coalitions of teachers, parents, community leaders and other education advocates. Still, such a group has organized for one more try, this time filing an initiative to allow a limited number of public charter schools.

It’s hardly a radical proposal, but reaction from the state’s largest teachers union, the Washington Education Association, was swift and dismissive. The union has led three successful fights against charters at the ballot box. Its opposition stems in part, no doubt, from the flexibility charters have to hire and fire staff.

…If the WEA and its legislative supporters think they can win increased funding for education without significant reform, they’re dreaming. If voters are to go along with a new, stable funding source to meet the McCleary mandate, they’re going to have to be convinced the money will be spent effectively.

That requires a willingness to try new approaches, not stubbornly clinging to the status quo.

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