As you may have heard in the news this morning, last night the House passed the charter schools bill. We had a long debate on what to do about charter schools in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that the ones we have are not constitutional. It is a long watch but very worthwhile to see civil, bipartisan agreement and disagreement about the results of an initiative that the people voted for. You can watch it on TVW here.
Many years ago, before I was ever expecting to serve in elected office, my children were in an excellent private school. It was affordable because I was on staff as a program development /grant writer first, and then as an art teacher. During that time my fellow parents were active in the movement to have some of their tax dollars offset the cost of the education they chose for their children. There were many aspects of that educational environment that I wished were more common in the public system. There was a longitudinal study to evaluate the long term effectiveness of the experience for the children. But at a certain point, my family made the choice for public education.
Like many of you, I am keenly aware of and share the passion to seek the very best for our children.
Yesterday I voted in the minority on the charter school bill. I could speak all day about why but it boiled down to this:
- Our paramount duty is to the entire public school system. The bill passed last night doesn’t reflect that. The fact that we technically don’t have to identify a funding source for the other thousands of kids’ education until next year doesn’t justify fixing the choice of the parents of around 1000 kids before we do that. A choice made by parents while the legal questions were still pending.
- There is good reason to think that the bill passed yesterday is no more constitutional than the initiative was and will only expand our problem.
- All of the things that people valued about the charter schools are available through some public schools. The question is, why not all? The answer is our lack of funding and our constant changing the requirements, standards, and testing.
- Charter schools are still without accountability for their use of public dollars. Their results are no better than adequately-funded public schools and the cost, when done badly, is too much for both, the kids and the taxpayers.
- My goal is to ensure adequate funding and policy support for innovative schools, high standards, and access for ALL of our children. Hearing the passion from my colleagues yesterday was moving. Any thoughts of ulterior motives were gone. But I hope that passion to “save” the few will lead to passion to provide excellence for the many. We are not there yet.
Today is the last day of the regular session and, as you know, there is no agreement on the budget yet. So we will adjourn, but will likely be called back for a special session in the next few days. I’ll keep you posted.
Thank you for staying in touch via phone and email throughout session, hearing from you helps me represent you better in Olympia.