Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

I-1240 Makes Education A Lottery For Some

    The possibility of public charter schools in Washington state has been a source of controversy since the mid-1990s. Until now, Washington voters had rejected all three attempts at establishing charter schools at the state level.

    This November, Initiative 1240 passed, competitively earning approximately 51 percent of the vote. Initiative 1240 will allow for eight charter schools to be established each year for five years. After the five-year development period, the charter schools will be subject to review. After the state has determined the success of the charter schools, it will be decided whether or not more charter schools will be allowed to open.

    Charter schools are run by nonprofit organizations, cannot discriminate against any student, and are free to attend. Teachers at charter schools are required to meet the same certification requirements as teachers in traditional public schools throughout the state. If a charter school should receive more interested students than it can seat, a lottery must take place in order to ensure that each student has an equal opportunity to be admitted into the school.

    “My main concern about charter schools is where the money to run them will come from,” said Washington resident Stacie Glenn, 29. “If [Washington] can’t afford to effectively fund the schools we have already, how will these new schools survive?”

    Washington’s education system has been facing extreme budgeting challenges as lawmakers brainstorm ways to raise at least one billion dollars before 2016 in order to fulfill the state Supreme Court’s orders for education reform and to offer free all-day kindergarten, pay for bussing, and ease the load of local governments enforcing tax levies for education. However, according to Governor Chris Gregoire, it appears nearly impossible not to enforce new tax levies to reach this goal.

    Governor-elect Jay Inslee has spoken out against raising taxes for education; however, current Governor Chris Gregoire is responsible for writing the first draft of the new budget plan.

    “Washington, King County specifically, hasn’t done well managing their budget or the taxpayer’s money,” said an anonymous King County employee. “We all know the education system isn’t working, but it’s hard to convince people at the local level to give more money when they haven’t seen any results.”

    According to the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has said that the area would benefit most from a new middle school.

    Charter schools traditionally have longer school days, even offering classes in the evenings, on weekends and in summer months. These flexible hours could allow students to spend more time in the classroom and/or attend a school whose hours best accommodate the student and their family’s needs.

    Charter schools can be established as elementary, middle or high schools. Stanford researchers have conducted studies regarding the effectiveness of charter schools compared to traditional public schools and found that while overall charter schools don’t function more effectively than traditional schools, they show exponential growth and higher success rates for students in poverty stricken areas.

    Currently, 56 percent of seventh graders in the state are not reading at grade level. Of those living in poverty, reading level drops to less than 50 percent. Similarly, 24 percent of Washington students drop out of high school. The campaign in support of I-1240 argues that because charter schools have a more flexible curriculum than traditional public schools, they have more freedom to contour their schedule to more effectively accommodate and strengthen their students.

    Washington state is the 42nd state to approve charter school legislation. According to the Washington Coalition for Public Charter Schools, by 2018 nearly 70 percent of jobs in Washington state will require degrees or certificates from an accredited institution in order to be considered for hire. Proponents of I-1240 believe that the development of charter schools can increase graduation rates, particularly among students from homes of economic hardship and minorities, because charter schools can offer a more personal classroom experience and can offer job training and lifestyle classes.

    According to the Seattle Times, education spending in Washington has dropped from nearly 50 percent of the state budget to just above 40 percent. Charter school proponents argue that charter schools will be cheaper to maintain and will be more effective than traditional public schools.

    A recent study conducted by the Partnership for Learning reviled that charter schools typically receive an average of 19 percent less money per student than traditional public schools.

    “We had charter schools where I grew up,” said Jerry Lisauckis of the Coast Guard. “Being stationed in Seattle made me realize that if something doesn’t change [with the education system in Washington], this isn’t the place I want to raise my kids.”

    Holly may be reached at [email protected]

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