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21 reasons to oppose charter schools, Initiative 1240

This fall, Washington voters will vote on Initiative 1240, yet another attempt funded by a handful of very wealthy individuals to legalize charter schools — taxpayer-funded schools that operate independently of traditional public school districts. Charter schools have been rejected by Washington voters three times, in 1996, 2000 and 2004.


1.  Charters have NOT outperformed public schools — the majority of charter schools have performed equal to or poorer than public schools.

2.  Charter schools too often increase segregation of minority students and students of poverty.

3.  Charter school legislation has led on to voucher systems which are funding private religious schools or anything that looks like a school — see Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, etc.

4.  Many charter schools in New York are run by unelected boards full of “hedge fund managers.”

5.  Our neighborhood schools build strong communities that support the greater needs of families, schools, and businesses.

6.  Washington state’s K-12 schools mobility factor is near 40%.  In high poverty schools that mobility factor is too often 60 to 80%, which means students and families at risk are moving their households frequently. Charters do not help students who are on the move. Improving all public schools in our state that those students may attend will help them.

7.  Academic improvement is happening in many schools and districts.  Adults throughout the system are being held accountable and this is good for students.  Renton is an excellent example, diverse ethnic and economic populations, achieving 93% extended graduation rates. And there are many others experiencing similar success, including Toppenish and Pasco.

8.  Local governance should be by locally elected school boards responsible for vision, accountability, and governance for public education in their school districts.  Charters are often governed by a group of unelected parents — yet all voters, parents or not, should have the right to elect school board directors who govern all public schools and public school dollars.

9.  Education professionals know what works, and when the state lives up to its responsibility to fund basic education those education administrators and classroom professionals, in collaboration with elected schools boards and communities, are able to help all students succeed.

10.  Public schools are not in the business of non-profit or for-profit business ventures.

11.  Public schools educate all children — special ed, gifted, poverty, typical, etc.  Too many charters are not inclusive of real student populations.

12.  Washington K-12 public schools must work for one million kids, not 5,000 kids.

13.  Charter management companies don’t even agree on what works.  The founder of Rocketship, a national charter school network, has said that KIPP (another charter school network) doesn’t work, isn’t sustainable, and he wouldn’t send his kids there.

14.  Public schools are what American democracy is built upon — access and opportunity for all.

15.  Washington state school districts and schools already have and are using many available opportunities for flexibility and waivers that allow and encourage innovations and choices that work for students and families.

16.  Washington is one of the few states that offers Running Start college opportunities to high school students.

17.  As stated by charter operators, their charter framework does not often work well in rural areas and is “targeted” to urban areas.

18.  This is not an issue about teachers unions and Washington Education Association. Innovation schools and successful school programs are working right now in collaboration with local education associations — and for the right reasons, student achievement.

19.  Charters draw funds away from public schools, from public schools levies and bonds, and from vital shared school district resources.

20.  Unclear liability issues may arise in charter schools and transformational zones, and since school districts are likely seen as deeper pockets in potential lawsuits, districts would likely be targeted as part of those lawsuits.

21.  The most at-risk students whose parents can’t or won’t step up to greater advocacy or involvement that some charters demand are left out or pushed out.  Our public schools enroll and teach all students.

Washington state must focus on improving public schools for ALL students; college prep and professional development for strong principals and quality teachers; readiness to learn with local communities and leadership supporting children and families; cultural relevance; build on innovations, STEM literacy, career and technical education; common core standards; ensuring 21st century skills – communications, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking; early interventions for struggling students; investing in ample funding for all public schools; and the belief that all children can achieve.

Rep. Marcie Maxwell (D-41st) represents Bellevue, Issaquah, Mercer Island, Newcastle, Renton and Sammamish in the Washington State House of Representatives. She serves as House Deputy Majority Leader for Education & Opportunity.

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