Washington state voters are getting ready to go the polls over an issue they’ve voted down twice in recent years: the issue of charter schools.
The legislature, in their infinite wisdom – and entirely against the will of the people – voted in a bill last session that would authorize charter schools (ESSHB 2295).
Alarmed at this sneaky circumvention, charter school foes circulated petitions collecting over 150,000 signatures and were able to get Initiative 55 certified and on the ballot. Now Washington voters have what will hopefully be the final time to reject charter schools.
So why are charter schools bad?
Because basically, they don’t work. Recent studies by the US Department of Education found charter school students lagging in reading and math scores.
Another example is that in 1999-2000, 80% of the children in Texas public schools passed the Texas academic achievement tests while only 37% of charter school students passed the same test. In a 2002 study by the Texas Education Agency, it also found the dropout rate for charter schools was significantly higher – 17.7% compared to 6.2% for all other public schools.
Then in another study recently released by Duke University, they found that students in North Carolina’s charter schools would have been better off if they had stayed in their traditional public school. http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/news/charter_0804.html
There’s been a lot of speculation over the causes of the charter school’s poor performance.
Many attribute the lower test scores to the fact that charter schools operate with less oversight and supervision than traditional public schools – they’re not held accountable like public schools. And then financial problems and mismanagement have been big issues for charter schools and may well have probably played a part in the poor performance.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s more than enough evidence to turn me off from charter schools.
But even so, there are several other provisions in the proposed Washington law that give me different, more pressing problems.
The first is that from the way the proposed law is set up, it strongly appears that the hidden agenda for charter schools is to circumvent unions.
One provision makes it illegal for a charter school bargaining unit to be part of a local school district bargaining unit for five years – even if the employees were to vote unanimously in favor of that representation.
Another provision states that in “conversion” charter schools – a former public school that is proposed to be converted to a charter school – the new charter school board may request “variances” from the old school district collective bargaining agreement to address “needs that are specific to the charter school.”
Combine that with the fact that there’s a provision that would allow the charter schools to use non-certificated teachers – as long as they’re generally supervised by a certificated person.
So what’s this all add up to?
I don’t know about you, but this tells me that the plan is for schools that use lower-paid, non-union, and quite possibly unqualified teachers – probably as a means to cut costs and “more effectively use your tax dollars.” I find this very disturbing.
It’s hard enough to find qualified teachers right now – the starting salary in Washington state for teachers fresh out of college is only a little over $30,000 a year. Spend that same four years in college studying for a computer science degree, and your average starting pay jumps up to $49,000. Or for a chemical engineering degree, $52,000. Or accounting $42,000 a year. Or for another example, with nursing it jumps to $38,000 a year.
Teacher’s pay is already at the bottom.
If you cut their pay more – which would almost certainly happen as a result of limiting the charter teachers bargaining rights – then the situation would become almost impossible.
What kind of “cut-rate” teachers would work for less money than they’re already getting? Perhaps the charters figure to hire illegal aliens as aides, janitors and secretaries to save even more dollars? Hey, it works for Wal-Mart. Maybe they’ll trim a few dollars out of the school lunch budgets, too?
It’s no wonder the test scores are down!
Clearly, charter schools are a very bad idea.
Our children are our future. Let’s not cut corners on their education.
I hope everyone votes to reject referendum 55.