Wednesday, March 2, 2016

WA: Charter Miracle

Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education as Private Business Funded by Public Tax Dollars (okay, I just added that last part for clarity) is over at Campbell Brown's million dollar charter promotion site being Very Alarmed about Washington State.

Unless the legislature acts within the next 10 days, we will be the first state in the union to intentionally shut down a group of high-performing schools that serve mainly disadvantaged students.

The shutdown will come because the charter set-up created in Washington state is illegal, a violation of the state's constitution. The court in Washington observed what we already know-- that a charter is not a public school because it is not answerable to a publicly elected board.

Reformsters have been pushing hard for charter schools in Washington for years, finally getting a law on the books in 2012. One charter opened in the 2014-2015 school year. Eight more opened last fall. These are the schools that Lake is so deeply concerned about.

Of course, the ruling from the court came down before the eight schools ever opened, so from Day One, they knew that the school was violating the law. They were just hoping-- and continue to hope now at the eleventh hour-- that the legislature will somehow pass a new law that makes them legal again. So any sympathy for those schools has to be balanced by the fact that the courts had already told them that the law they were depending on was illegal-- and they opened their doors anyway. It is too bad that about 1,100 students will have their school year disrupted-- but everybody knew this was the probably outcome when they walked in the door on the very first day.

But Lake assures us they are awesome schools-- even though they have been open for about five months!

It's a miracle! In just a few months, we can already tell that these schools are superb. They hold weekly ceremonies to recognize students who advance through reading levels. They have an "intentional learning culture." They have a longer school day! They swear that their students are doing really well!

This, I think, is the real story here. Not that charter schools opened in violation of the law and are now surprised that the law hasn't been changed to suit them in time. No, the real story is that Lake and her buddies know how to identify an outstanding school in just five months! See-- when push comes to shove, even they don't believe in this data-driven Big Standardized Test based evaluation of schools. You just know, because you're there, looking at the kids, and you can see it. And people should just take your word for it.

I look forward to seeing Lake apply this method to public schools, just as I continue to look for Lake and other charteristas expressing similar outrage when another charter closes in the middle of the year, sometimes with no advance notice at all.

But shame on all of us if we let misinformation and interest-group politics shut the door on new hope and opportunity for the kids who need it most.

Presumably she's referring to interest-group politics different from the interest-group politics that funded the passage of the illegal charter law in the first place. Or maybe she means the interest-group politics of the state constitution, or the taxpayers who want a say in how their money is spent. I am sure that Washington charter fans have not given up, and will be back with a new law soon. Maybe next time it will be a law that is actually legal.


  1. As you said, Peter, all they have to do is be transparent and be "answerable to a publicly elected board."

  2. So I have a public education blog in Seattle (Seattle Schools Community Forum) and I ran one of the No on 1240 campaigns against the charter initiative. Thanks for this thread and you are right on all points. I'll add that CRPE is really just a charter think-tank funded by Gates.

    We have repeatedly asked for any kind of data or documentation on these miracle claims of progress and...crickets. We're just supposed to believe them. (And not all is well as December Board minutes show from one charter where 50% of 5th and 6th graders are reading below grade level.)

    You echo what I said at my blog: Here's a thought - write an initiative or bill that is constitutional sound and you will have your charters.

    And, for the last time, when you hear that there is "fear-mongering," "why are people scared or afraid," you should wonder why you are being talked to like a child.

  3. Yes Peter! They keep making these claims without actually showing any data, or the tests they used, while completely ignoring the fact that making any claims based on 5 months of schooling are ridiculous. My first thought was to say that, if we saw such rapid jumps in our public schools, someone would presume there was cheating...